This 2005 photo shows the westbound Pottstown Expressway (US 422) approaching the exit for PA 363 (Trooper Road) in Betzwood (West Norriton Township). (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
FIRST PLANNED AS A PARKWAY: In 1932, the Regional Planning Federation of the Philadelphia Tri-State District (the predecessor to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission) proposed a four-lane, controlled-access parkway from Valley Forge to Pottstown and Reading. Conceived as an extension of the Valley Forge Parkway (which was eventually constructed as the Schuylkill Expressway), the route was to be restricted to passenger cars, and feature ribbon parks along the length of the route.
The riverside parkway was to follow the design specifications (such as stone-arch bridges and timber lightposts) implemented on the New York parkway system designed by Robert Moses. However, without a forceful leader like Moses, the Philadelphia area parkway system was never constructed.
EXTENDING FROM VALLEY FORGE TO POTTSTOWN: In 1964, the Pennsylvania Department of Highways proposed the "Relocated US 422" (or "Schuylkill Expressway Extension"), which was to follow the Schuylkill River from the I-76 / US 202 interchange near Valley Forge National Historic Park northwest to Pottstown and Reading. The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) recommended the US 422 Expressway, which was to feature three bridges over the Schuylkill River, for immediate construction as a high-priority route.
Conceived as a bypass for the existing US 422, the expressway, whose cost was estimated at $58 million in the 1970s, was to relieve congestion along Ridge Pike and Germantown Pike, both two-lane roads that run from Pottstown through Montgomery County to Philadelphia.
DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION: The expressway was designed with four 12-foot-wide lanes (two in each direction), standard-width shoulders and a variable median. Near Collegeville, a wide median was accommodated for a future interchange with the Phoenixville Spur (PA 23), an expressway spur that was never completed.
Construction of the highway began in 1965 on the 2.5-mile-long section from the US 202 Expressway in King of Prussia to PA 363 (Trooper Road) in Betzwood, along with the Betzwood Bridge over the Schuylkill River. Initially called the "County Line Expressway" and given the temporary PA 363 designation, the four-lane expressway opened to traffic in 1967. (Some planning reports called for US 202 to utilize this section of the US 422 Expressway as part of the unbuilt Norristown Bypass.)
In 1967, a second section opened to traffic: the 8.4-mile-long "Pottstown Bypass" connecting the existing US 422 in Douglassville, Berks County with Township Line Road in Sanatoga (Pottstown), Montgomery County. This section, which dips for several miles into Chester County, included the completion of the Kenilworth and Bramcote bridges over the Schuylkill River. Soon after this section opened, the "Pottstown Expressway" name and US 422 designation were applied to the length of the partially completed expressway.
In 1970, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) began engineering and environmental studies on the remaining 13 miles of the Pottstown Expressway. After five years of study and public review, PennDOT began construction of a 5.4-mile-long section from PA 29 (Phoenixville-Collegeville Road) in Collegeville west to Lewis Road in Linfield (Royersford) in 1975. This section opened to traffic three years later.
However, with impending PennDOT budget cuts in the late 1970s, the two missing links on US 422 - the 6.4-mile-long section from PA 363 to PA 29, and the 2.6-mile-long section from Linfield (Lewis Road) to Sanatoga (Township Line Road) - appeared in jeopardy. This problem was solved in 1981, when PennDOT received trade-in funds from the unbuilt I-895 (new Burlington-Bristol Bridge) between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
In 1984, the Betzwood-Collegeville section opened to traffic, followed one year later by the completion of the Linfield-Sanatoga section. When it was finished in 1985, the 25.3-mile-long Pottstown Expressway had seen its construction cost rise to $102 million. With the completion of the expressway, the US 422 designation was rerouted from Ridge Pike and Germantown Pike onto the new Pottstown Expressway. The US 422 designation now ended not in Philadelphia, but in Tredyffrin Township.
RECENT IMPROVMENTS ALONG ROUTE 422: In recent years, PennDOT completed the following improvements along the Pottstown Expressway:
Along 6.2 miles of the expressway through Berks, Montgomery, and Chester counties, PennDOT repaved the mainline, rehabilitated ramps and shoulders, repaired 12 bridges, provided new drainage capacity, and installed new signs. The $8.2 million project was completed in 2002.
As part of the $270 million US 202 Expressway (Section 400) reconstruction project, PennDOT is reconstructing the ramps connecting US 422 to US 202. For several months in early 2001, construction in this area was hampered by emergency work to stabilize sinkholes. In December 2001, a new ramp from northbound US 202 and eastbound US 422 to eastbound I-76 (which occupies the PECO-Penn Central right-of-way, where utilities have been relocated) opened to traffic. During 2002, US 422 was widened for about one half-mile north of the interchange to provide four eastbound and three westbound lanes, and a new C/D road was completed from southbound US 202 to westbound US 422 and I-76. The full interchange was completed in October 2003.
In 2002, the DVRPC dropped plans for widening the Pottstown Expressway to six lanes from the US 202 interchange in Tredyffrin Township north to PA 363 (Trooper Road) in West Norriton Township. The "2025 Long-Range Plan for the Delaware Valley" recommendation was contingent upon construction of the 62-mile-long Schuylkill Valley Metro light rail line between Philadelphia and Reading.
This 2005 photo shows the eastbound Pottstown Expressway (US 422) approaching its terminus at the US 202 interchange in Tredyffrin Township. The section shown here was widened from two to four eastbound lanes in the early 2000s, when the US 202-US 422 interchange was rebuilt. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
EASTERN EXTENSION - THE RADNOR SPUR: In 1969, the DVRPC recommended the construction of the Radnor Spur (originally called the "King of Prussia Spur"), a continuation of the US 422 Expressway extending southeast from the US 202 Expressway in King of Prussia to I-476 (Mid-County Expressway / "Blue Route") in Radnor Township. The DVRPC included the six-mile-long, $44 million extension in their proposed 1985 regional freeway network. However, PennDOT killed the Radnor Spur to the "Blue Route" in 1977 amid funding difficulties and community opposition.
WESTERN EXTENSION - TO READING (AND BEYOND): In 1967, the Pennsylvania Department of Highways proposed a western extension of the US 422 Expressway beyond Pottstown. The commonwealth added the 8.6-mile-long, $15 million extension, which was to connect with an existing expressway section (the West Shore Bypass) in Reading, to the six-year capital improvement program. The expressway may have been planned to continue northwest of Reading to connect with I-78 (probably along the alignment of PA 183). PennDOT canceled the proposed expressway west of Pottstown in 1977.
During the 1990's, PennDOT made improvements to the existing four-lane divided arterial for a distance of 8.6 miles between the western end of the Pottstown Expressway in Douglasville and the eastern end of the West Shore Bypass in Reading. This project included the installation of a new concrete ("Jersey") barrier, improvements to signalized intersections, and the construction of new jughandles to eliminate left-turn movements.
In 2005, PennDOT District 5 began corridor studies along the arterial section of US 422 between Pottstown and Reading. The study features two new alignments that would extend the existing Pottstown Expressway west toward Reading, resurrecting plans that had been canceled nearly three decades earlier. One such alignment would be routed along the Schuylkill River. However, such an expressway would face an uphill battle for funding, especially against the popular Schuylkill Valley Metro light rail proposal.
This 2010 photo shows the eastbound West Shore Bypass (US 422) at the East Neversink Road partial-diamond interchange in Exeter Township. Note the wider median in the distance, which is where the US 422 Expressway mainline was to continue east toward the existing Pottstown Expressway. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
The missing link on the US 422 Expressway between Pottstown and Reading should be built. In addition, a third lane should be built in each direction between Valley Forge and the PA 363 interchange to improve safety and ease congestion; this project would include full shoulders and a widening of the Schuylkill River bridge.
SOURCES: Regional Plan of the Philadelphia Tri-State District, Regional Planning Federation (1932); "Alternate Oaks Route Urged for Expressway Extension," The Philadelphia Inquirer (8/24/1967); "Six-Year Improvement Program (1967-1973)," Pennsylvania Department of Highways (1967); "Planners Table Airpark Plan After Protests," The Philadelphia Inquirer (7/31/1969); 1985 Regional Transportation Plan, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (1969); "Panel OK's Use of Road Funds," The Philadelphia Inquirer (7/17/1981); "Interstate 476, Mid-County Expressway from I-76 to I-95: Administrative Action Final Environmental Impact Statement and Section 4(f) Statement," Federal Highway Administration and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (1983); "Schuylkill Carries the Load of Many Roads Left Unbuilt" by Paul Nussbaum, The Philadelphia Inquirer (8/19/1984); "Pottstown Expressway Completion Set for Spring" by Mark Adams, Reading Eagle (12/02/1984); "Rebuilding US 202 (Section 400) Today for a Better Tomorrow," Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (1997); "First Came Sinkholes, Next New Jams on the Schuylkill" by Jere Downs, The Philadelphia Inquirer (3/09/2001); "Construction Set To Begin on Route 202" by Brian Rossiter, The Reporter (8/24/2001); "Route 202 Project Comes to an End" by Jere Downs, The Philadelphia Inquirer (10/30/2003); Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association; Tri-County Area Chamber of Commerce; Jeff Kitsko; Scott Kozel; Len Pundt; Bill Stephens.
US 422 and PA 363 shields by Scott Colbert. Lightpost by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.