The Pennsylvania Town That Exists Only Because of a Stoplight

When Interstate 70 was built through Breezewood, Penn., — 130 miles east of Pittsburgh — back in the 1960s, a tangle of highway funding bureaucracy complicated the interchange between I-70 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The federal government wouldn’t pay for a direct interchange because the turnpike was a toll road. The state didn’t want to kick in either because ramps are expensive and the new interstate highways were already shrinking toll revenues. In the battle of bureaucracy, who would be the first to blink? In the end, nobody did. A gap of about one-quarter mile of surface road was left between I-70 and the turnpike, a gap not built to federal interstate standards. Most notably, the two highways now meet at a regular old intersection, which means drivers along the interstate today still hit the brakes in surprise when they see a stoplight and cross-traffic………on a freeway! With 3½ million vehicles using the intersection every year, the effects of a traffic light on the interstate is exactly what you’d expect: gridlock during rush hour and a strip of neon-lit tourist traps that suddenly appear in the middle of nowhere. An old billboard heralds travelers’ arrival: “Breezewood: Town of Motels, Food, and Fuel.”