West Liberty Avenue Trolley Ramp - 1939
In 1939, due to the growing vehicular congestion at the busy intersection of West Liberty Avenue and Saw Mill Run Boulevard, a new trolley ramp was constructed along the lower end of West Liberty Avenue. This diverted the 39-Brookline and 38-Mount Lebanon trolleys from the crowded junction and on to the line used by Dormont and Beechview trolleys.
The project first required widening the existing four-lane roadway by an additional two lanes, cutting into the hillside along and above West Liberty Avenue, then constructing a long, massive retaining wall, in some spots as high as forty feet.
This phase began in January 1939 and was completed by May. The existing trolley rails and vehicular traffic then had to be diverted around the ramp construction area to ensure that rail traffic and automobile through-traffic was uninterrupted throughout the project. This required the laying of a temporary rail on the outbound side of West Liberty Avenue.
By June, ramp construction began. Although more work needed to be done, the ramp was officially opened to rail traffic on August 15, 1939. The Brookline and Mount Lebanon trolleys now used the West Liberty ramp to connect to the Palm Garden Trestle on their way towards the South Hills Junction.
Once the ramp work was completed, the old trolley rails had to be removed and the street repaved. By October of 1939 the entire project was finished.
The cost of the nine-month effort was $347,000. In 2018 dollars that total would be adjusted to $6,155,000. As intended, the trolley ramp made a big difference in alleviating traffic congestion at the intersection of West Liberty Avenue and Saw Mill Run Boulevard.
Unfortunately for South Hills motorists, as the years passed more and more vehicles took to the streets, and the problem returned worse than before. It wasn't until sixty years later, in 1999, that the problem was addressed again, with the construction of the Liberty Tunnels South Interchange.
Today, the trolley ramp is now part of the Port Authority's South Busway, which opened for traffic in 1977. The busway incorporated the existing Palm Garden Bridge and the West Liberty Trolley Ramp, in addition to portions of the Castle Shannon trolley line through Overbrook to Glenbury Street. No longer used for rail traffic, the ramp diverts buses off of West Liberty Avenue onto a dedicated lane that leads to the South Hills Junction.
* Construction photos provided by Tim Killmeyer *
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