INTENDED AS A LOCAL ALTERNATIVE TO THE PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE: The US 30 Expressway may have been envisioned as a local alternative to the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) between Philadelphia and Lancaster, where another bypass of US 30 was built. At one point, highway officials may have considered the US 30 alignment as an alternative for I-76 (then designated I-80S), but by the beginning of the 1960's, the state had given plans to a toll-free Interstate highway and instead affixed the I-76 designation onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
The Pennsylvania Department of Highways commenced construction of the first stretch of controlled-access US 30 between Coatesville and Downingtown in 1960. The four-lane US 30 Expressway, which was known locally as the "Coatesville-Downingtown Bypass," was completed in 1962. It was built to early Interstate highway standards with substandard acceleration-deceleration lanes and a relatively narrow 24-foot-wide median.
COMPLETING THE EXTON BYPASS: For more than three decades, a gap of 5.5 miles near Exton separated the Coatesville-Downingtown Bypass from the rest of the controlled-access highway network. During this time, the US 30 corridor west of the US 202 Expressway had become a thriving exurban corridor, but chronic congestion threatened its viability. Funding to complete the expressway also was a problem, although the state managed to secure some financing from trade-in funds (notably the cancellation of I-895 between Pennsylvania and New Jersey). On the other hand, environmentalists fought to stop the project on the grounds that it would destroy wetlands and spoil the countryside.
Engineering and design studies began in 1983, but it was nearly another decade before the bulldozers came. In 1991, Congressman Richard T. Schulze, who represented Chester County, advocated expedited construction of the Exton Bypass in the following testimony:
Unprecedented commercial and industrial growth in the rural and suburban areas between the port of Philadelphia and Lancaster have swollen surface transportation demands far beyond the capacity of US 30 where it passes through Exton. West of Exton, Route 30 is a four-lane expressway; east of Exton, traffic flows on a modern highway with fully controlled access. The 5.5-mile segment of US 30 which passes through the heart of Exton is the weak link in this highway of national importance. It is a transportation coronary of congestion and gridlock.
The solution is the Exton Bypass. It will complete the US 30 corridor by connecting the Coatesville-Downingtown bypass to US 202. Sixty percent of the Route 30 traffic which staggers through Exton from stoplight to stoplight, neither originates nor ends in Exton. Local and other through traffic is forced into diversionary routes which swells feeder roads and arteries into gridlock. The Exton Bypass will whisk at least 60 percent of the current traffic along highways of limited-access and fully-controlled access design.
The Exton bypass also will improve connections between private vehicle commuters and public transportation. Two commuter rail stations, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's (SEPTA) R5 line and Amtrak's Harrisburg-Philadelphia line interface with the Route 30 corridor. By relieving intense congestion in the vicinity of these stations, rail commuters will have more efficient access to rail and bus options which will further reduce road traffic in the region.
Finally, by offering efficient movement of personnel and materials, the Exton bypass will bring surface transportation infrastructure needs closer to current commercial demands and facilitate additional commercial growth.
Construction of the 5.5-mile-long Exton Bypass began in 1993. The four-lane expressway, which connects US 202 to the existing Coatesville-Downingtown Bypass at Lancaster Avenue (now Business US 30), was completed on December 22, 1995 at a cost of $125 million. Almost immediately upon completion, the bypass was designated a state scenic route by the Pennsylvania General Assembly because of the corridor's unique "scenic, historic, cultural, and archeological" significance.
According to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), the US 30 Expressway carries approximately 35,000 vehicles per day (AADT) along the "Exton Bypass" section, and about 25,000 vehicles per day along the "Coatesville-Downingtown Bypass" section.
REBUILDING THE COATESVILLE-DOWNINGTOWN BYPASS: PennDOT began work began the early 2000's to rebuild the original US 30 bypass between Coatesville and Downingtown. The reconstruction of the bypass to current freeway standards includes rehabilitation of the mainline, bridges, and ramps; extension of acceleration-deceleration ramps; installation of a concrete ("Jersey") median barrier; and upgrades of sewer and electrical systems.
This 2004 photo shows the eastbound US 30 Expressway approaching the exit for PA 113 (Uwchlan Avenue) in Downingtown. This section of US 30, also known as the Coatesville-Downingtown Bypass, was built during the early 1960's. It is in the middle of a multi-year PennDOT modernization project. (Photo by Alex Nitzman, northeastroads.com.)
A RELIEF ROUTE FOR THE SCHUYLKILL EXPRESSWAY: As early as 1947, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission proposed an expressway along Girard Avenue through West Philadelphia. The planned east-west expressway was to connect the Schuylkill Expressway with the West Philadelphia Expressway, which at the time of the proposal was to extend north along Cobbs Creek to US 1 (City Line Avenue).
In 1966, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission proposed a 2.8-mile-long, $60 million expressway along existing Girard Avenue and Lancaster Avenue. The Main Line Expressway, which would have been designated US 30, was continue the route of the proposed Girard Avenue Expressway west to City Line Avenue (existing US 1) in Overbrook. The east-west route, which was to take its name from the parallel SEPTA-Amtrak "Main Line" (R5 line), was to relieve congestion on the nearby Schuylkill Expressway (I-76).
Beginning at the Schuylkill Expressway at the current EXIT 342 (Girard Avenue), the Main Line Expressway was to continue west for approximately one mile along Girard Avenue, along the southern edge of Fairmount Park. The expressway was to take a turn northwest at Lancaster Avenue, continuing for approximately 1.8 miles to City Line Avenue. At North 52nd Street, there was to have been an interchange with the proposed West Philadelphia Expressway (US 1).
EXTENDING ALL THE WAY TO EXTON: The Main Line Expressway, which was originally slated for completion by 1975, remained on planning maps through the first half of the 1970's. One "maximum test freeway" planning map devised by the DVRPC envisioned an extension of the Main Line Expressway (US 30) west to the US 202 Expressway in Chester County, connecting to the existing US 30 Expressway (Exton Bypass).
On July 1, 1977, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) halted all funding on proposed highway projects, effectively killing hopes for constructing new expressways in Philadelphia. Subsequently, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission dropped the Main Line Expressway from its future capital program.
SOURCES: "Philadelphia Expressway Program," Philadelphia City Planning Commission (1947); "Philadelphia's Comprehensive Plan for Expressways," Philadelphia City Planning Commission (1966); 1985 Regional Transportation Plan, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (1969); Capital Program: City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia City Planning Commission (1978); "Schuylkill Carries the Load of Many Roads Left Unbuilt" by Paul Nussbaum, The Philadelphia Inquirer (8/19/1984); "The Exton Bypass," Richard T. Schulze, Congressional Record, House of Representatives (1/03/1991); "Exton Bypass at Last on a Roll" by Susan Weidener, The Philadelphia Inquirer (12/23/1995); "House Bill Number 2336," Pennsylvania General Assembly ( Pennsylvania Department of Transportation; Jeff Kitsko; Len Pundt.