Levittown Then… The PA Turnpike

March 9, 2013 2:45 am0 commentsViews: 92
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Enthusiastic travelers line up their cars for opening day on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, October 1, 1940. Nearly 27,000 autos crowded the Pennsylvania Turnpike on its first weekend. The toll of one cent per mile didn’t discourage traffic, and neither did the speed limit: initially, the Turnpike had no posted limit. —Courtesy Pennsylvania State Archives

When the PA Turnpike was completed in the early 1950’s, it was an expressway to new job opportunities in the Philadelphia region. The Levittown-Fairless Hills area was a cornucopia for job seekers from the far reaches of Pennsylvania and beyond. They came from the coal regions of western and northeastern PA seeking a better life.

One can only imagine today what it was like to get a job and obtain affordable nearby housing by plunking down approximately one weekly paycheck. The shifts at the steel mill were long and hard. Most worked double shifts, 6-7 days a week. Those employed in other manufacturing sites had the same long workweeks. This was an employment boom we’ll never experience again.

Then it came—vacation time! It was time to touch the green grass of home. As children we were discovering who our relatives were in a far-off small town or country farm. Sandwiches, snacks and drinks were packed for the then 6-7 hour trip to the Pittsburgh area. My brothers and I were told “if you gotta go, you better go now, because I’m not stopping for a long time!” Sure enough, after entering the on ramp, brother Dave had to go.

A seemingly endless trip ended at the Donegal exit. My father paid the toll with a few dollars. The last trip I made there, it was around $20. What has happened to this cash cow, the turnpike? What has happened to this “money train” of a highway? Every time it needs repair they raise the tolls. Isn’t that what the tolls are for? How can the state try to sell this highway when it belongs to us—the people of Pennsylvania!

It was nice talking to you.

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