A subsequent application sent to AASHTO in 1970 resulted in further changes for the Pittsburgh area. Approved on December 3, 1971 were:
- Renumbering I-80S northwest from Monroeville as an extension of I-76
- Reassigning I-76 between I-279 at the Fort Pitt Bridge east end and I-80S at Monroeville as new Interstate 376
- Extend Interstate 279 west over I-76 along the Fort Pitt Bridge and Parkway West to I-79
Also included in the 1971 application was the renumbering of Interstate 876 to 579, reflecting the change of Crosstown Boulevard from a complete loop into a spur with no direct connection to I-376.
Interstate 376 Extension
Discussions on extending Interstate 376 dated back to at least 1994, when officials toured the route.6 On July 10, 2003, a bill was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives, HR 2695 IH that would legislatively convert Pennsylvania 60 into Interstate 376. The text of the bill, reads:
To designate Pennsylvania State Route 60 and United States Routes 22 and 30 as part of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, and for other purposes.
SECTION 1. DESIGNATION TO INTERSTATE SYSTEM. Pennsylvania State Route 60 from Interstate Route 80 south to United States Routes 22 and 30 Interchange at Steubenville Pike, Pennsylvania, and United States Routes 22 and 30 from Pennsylvania State Route 60 Interchange to Interstate Route 79 are designated as part of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways as Interstate Route 376. Any segment of such routes shall become a part of the Interstate System at such time as the Secretary of Transportation determines that the segment meets the Interstate System design standards approved by the Secretary under section 109(b) of title 23, United States Code. On the date of the Secretary’s determination, such routes shall be designated as Interstate Route 376 and the State of Pennsylvania shall erect signs identifying such routes as segments of Interstate Route 376.
SEC. 2. REDESIGNATION OF INTERSTATE ROUTE 279 AS 376/279. Interstate Route 279 from Interstate Route 79 east to Interstate Route 376 at Point State Park, Pennsylvania, is redesignated as Interstate Route 376/279. The State of Pennsylvania shall erect signs identifying such segment of Interstate Route 279 as Interstate Route 376/279.
As this bill as written, an overlap would be created between I-279 and I-376 along the Parkway West and that almost all of Pennsylvania Route 60 would become part of Interstate 376, along with portions of U.S. 22-30 and U.S. 422 near New Castle. By adding this mileage, Interstate 376 would nearly triple in length, and intersect its parent (I-76 / Pennsylvania Turnpike) twice.
As of May 2004, it appeared that while the entire proposed corridor for I-376 could use upgrades, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) might not require PennDOT to spend the millions of dollars necessary to bring the road to modern engineering standards. FHWA engineers advocated for at least minimal improvements to make the corridor safer. As a result, needed construction would be much less expensive than originally considered, and Interstate 376 could have been fully signed by as soon as 2007.7
In May 2005, plans to extend Interstate 376 northwest grew one step closer to fruition. The FHWA provided PennDOT with a list of prioritized changes and modifications that were required to be made along the entire 90-mile route from Monroeville west to Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) and north to Sharon. The areas of improvements were grouped into four categories, the first three were mandatory and the last could be waived via justifications from the state:6
- Category 1 — improvement of several sub-standard features of the 90-mile corridor, including guide-rail and median barriers, sign and lighting placements, and right-of-way fences. Cost: $21.8 million.
- Category 2 — improvement of deficiencies that required final designs to be completed and have funding in place for construction. This included the replacement of several older, button copy signs in Beaver County and Lawrence County. Cost: $12.4 million.
- Category 3 — these projects included an improvement to the cloverleaf interchange along the Parkway West at Routes 22, 30 and 60 in Robinson. Cost: $57.2 million.
- Category 4 — consisted of design deficiencies that would cost an estimated $83.1 million to correct but which the FHWA would not require, provided PennDOT makes a case for the exceptions.
Some officials wanted to see the Interstate 376 designation approved by the FHWA immediately, with a subsequent commitment to address those issues over time. The rational behind an extended I-376, was that travelers to the region would benefit from the reduced confusion that a single route number over the 90-mile corridor would provide. Additionally, supporters touted the potential economic development along a simplified route in place of the previous six routes between Sharon and Monroeville.8 A third benefit cited was that a single route number (I-376) would ease directions to Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT).
On August 10, 2005, the extension of I-376 from Downtown Pittsburgh to I-76 via I-279, U.S. 22-30, and PA 60 was made an official Future Interstate Corridor as part of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). The section of PA 60, from Interstate 76 (Pennsylvania Turnpike) north to I-80, would be added to the Interstate System once the highway met Interstate standards. An excerpt of language from SAFETEA-LU Section 1308(c), “Interstate Routes”:
(B) INTERSTATE ROUTE 376.-
- (i) DESIGNATION OF INTERSTATE ROUTE 376.-
- (I) IN GENERAL.-The routes referred to in subsection (c)(79), except the portion of Pennsylvania Turnpike Route 60 and United States Route 422 between Pennsylvania Turnpike Interchange 10 and Interstate Route 80, shall be designated as Interstate Route 376.
- (II) SIGNS.-The State of Pennsylvania shall have jurisdiction over the highways described in subclause (I) (except Pennsylvania Turnpike Route 60) and erect signs in accordance with Interstate signing criteria that identify the routes described in subclause (I) as Interstate Route 376.
- (III) ASSISTANCE FROM SECRETARY.-The Secretary shall assist the State of Pennsylvania in carrying out, not later than December 31, 2008, an activity under subclause (II) relating to Interstate Route 376 and in complying with sections 109 and 139 of title 23, United States Code.
- (ii) OTHER SEGMENTS.-The segment of the route referred to in subsection (c)(79) located between the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Interchange 10, and Interstate Route 80 may be signed as Interstate Route 376 under clause (i)(II) if that segment meets the criteria under sections 109 and 139 of title 23, United States Code.’
PennDOT and the FHWA negotiated terms by March 2006 to bring the extended route of I-376 to Interstate standards. Upgrades for the new designation would cost approximately $45 million.9 Improvements were targeted for ten interchanges, at specific median and guardrails, and for numerous sign changes. Plans called for Interstate 279 to end at the Fort Pitt interchange Downtown, and I-376 (and U.S. 22-30) to be signed solely along the route of I-279 along Penn-Lincoln Parkway West. Signs advertising Future Interstate 376 were planned for installation by May 2006, with the resigning of Parkway West to I-376, contingent upon funding availability, envisioned for 2008.
To that end, on May 6, 2006, The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Special Committee on Route Numbering approved the extension of Interstate 376 from Downtown Pittsburgh west to I-79 via Penn Lincoln Parkway West. This action eliminated I-279 from I-79 to the old west end of I-376, though the route remained signed along Parkway West through Summer 2009.10
The remainder of Interstate 376 north along PA 60 on the Airport and Beaver Valley Expressways was finally designated on June 10, 2009 per announcement from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, District 11-0. The extension coincided with $40 million in upgrades along the corridor.10 PennDOT received exemptions from bringing all of the route to modern highway standards, saving an estimated $150 million in costs. This included keeping several overpasses not meeting the 16 foot, 6 inch verticle clearance requirement. Sign installation and exit renumbering took place throughout Summer 2009. Mileposts and shields along the corridor in Beaver County were concealed pending federal approval of the full redesignation.11
A formal ceremony held near the Hopewell interchange in Beaver County on November 6, 2009 finalized the northernmost portion of Interstate 376. Signs for I-376 were unveiled in Beaver County as a $13.7 million project to reconfigure the cloverleaf interchange joining U.S. 22/30 with PA 60 near Robinson Town Centre continued.12,13 Sign changes continued throughout 2010, with crews replacing signs along the Beaver Valley Expressway (former PA Turnpike 60) by August 1.14 The Route 22/30/60 project ran through November 2010, with loop ramps removed from PA 60 west to I-376. The completed interchange work at U.S. 22/30 and PA 60 earned the American Council of Engineering Companies of Pennsylvania (ACEC/PA), 2012 Diamond Award Certificate for Engineering Excellence in Transportation.13