"The Pennsylvania Turnpike: America's First Superhighway" Exhibit at State Museum of Pennsylvania
By Curtis Miner, Senior History Curator at State Museum of Pennsylvania
When the Pennsylvania Turnpike opened in October 1940 as the first limited access “super highway” in the country, there was the sense that history was unfolding, even if its implications for how Americans might travel in the future could only be glimpsed faintly, if at all.
The press corps of the day declared it to be a “dream highway“ and America’s answer to the German Autobahn. The thousands of motorists who descended on it during its first weekend of operation, many having waited in line for hours for a chance to ride the “magic carpet” across the Alleghenies, seemed to agree. Though there were other long distance roadways then in existence, including national routes such as the Lincoln Highway, none offered the speed, convenience and safety of the new 160-mile stretch that crossed the Allegheny Mountains connecting Harrisburg to Pittsburgh.