photo of Pennsylvania Turnpike in 1942
Rays Hill Tunnel of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, later abandoned in 1968 after a road realignment.

Since 1966, ASCE has designated over 280 projects as National or International Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks as part of its Historic Civil Engineering Landmark Program. Some of these landmarks – the Brooklyn BridgeEiffel Tower, and Hoover Dam – are well-known, while others are less prominent.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike was designated an ASCE landmark in 1988.  Here are five things you didn’t know about the Pennsylvania Turnpike:

  1. The turnpike was built primarily along the right-of-way of a never-completed railroad venture, the South Pennsylvania Railroad, including seven bored and abandoned tunnels.
  2. The Pennsylvania Turnpike appeared in the Russian film Brother 2.
  3. On the date it opened, Oct. 1, 1940, at midnight, traffic jams occurred along its length as thousands of people went for pleasure drives.
  4. The turnpike had no enforced speed limit when it opened, except for the tunnels.
  5. The turnpike has appeared in multiple songs, including George Vaughn Horton’s “Pennsylvania Turnpike, I Love You So,” Billy Joel’s “You’re My Home,” and Why’s? “Probable Cause.”

Members of ASCE’s History and Heritage Committee have been learning fun and interesting facts about HCELs around the world to share in the new “ 5 Things You Didn’t Know About …” series. As the committee continues to build an inventory of all HCEL projects, members of the committee and other volunteers have been visiting sites to photograph landmarks and ASCE plaques as well as assess their conditions. If interested in volunteering to help the committee record these landmarks, please contact committee chairman David Gilbert ([email protected]).

Learn more about the committee’s work and the ASCE landmark program.