Saw Mill Run Boulevard - State Route 51

Saw Mill Run Boulevard at Provost Road in 1964.
Saw Mill Run Boulevard at Stewart Avenue. This is the official southern end of the Boulevard.

Click on images for larger photos

Saw Mill Run Boulevard runs along the Saw Mill Run Corridor, following the path of Saw Mill Run Creek. It begins at the intersection of Clairton Road and Stewart Avenue on the City of Pittsburgh boundary with Brentwood.

The roadway runs north through Overbrook and forms the eastern border of Brookline. It passes the Liberty Tunnel/West Liberty Avenue and the Fort Pitt Tunnel/Parkway West interchanges. It ends at the West End Circle near the entrance to the West End Bridge.

A four-lane road its entire length, the northernmost section, known as the West End Bypass, is designated an expressway. The Bypass runs from the Parkway West interchange to the West End Circle. The entire roadway is part of State Route 51 and US Route 19.

Saw Mill Run At The Turn-Of-The-Century

In the early 1900s Saw Mill Run was no more than a dirt path leading south along Saw Mill Run Creek from the intersection of West Liberty Avenue and Warrington Avenue. The township road, called the Warrington Avenue extension or Kaiser Avenue, ran to a point near Edgebrook Avenue. When World War I began, the name Kaiser Avenue was replaced with Saw Mill Run Road

At Edgebrook Avenue began a patchwork of residential streets in the old town of Reflectorville. After passing through the village to Nobles Lane, the Library Road Extension carried travelers through to the town of Fairhaven and the Library Road intersection.

The intersection of Saw Mill Run and
Library Road in 1909.
The intersection of Saw Mill Run (Library Road Extension) and Library Road, shown in 1909.

Rapid Development Of The South Hills

As development of Pittsburgh's southern neighborhoods and nearby suburbs began in earnest, the need for a better roadway became a necessity. With the construction of the Liberty Tunnels underway in 1920, the transformation of Saw Mill Run began.

Saw Mill Run from Bausman Street
heading east towards Overbrook in 1909.    Saw Mill Run from near West Liberty
Avenue to Bausman Street in 1917.
Saw Mill Run from Bausman Street heading east towards Overbrook (Fairhaven) in 1909 (left) and
Saw Mill Run in 1917 showing homes from near West Liberty Avenue to Bausman Street.

The project would take another ten years to complete, but by 1930 there would be a four-lane highway stretching from the Banksville Traffic Circle all the way through to Library Road in Overbrook. Further road construction in the 1950s took the boulevard from Banksville Road to the West End.

"City Beautiful" Bond Issue - 1928

Saw Mill Run Boulevard was created as part of the 1928 Allegheny County "City Beautiful" bond issue. The bonds resulted in the creation of Saw Mill Run, Ohio River, Allegheny River and Mosside Boulevards. After the completion of the Liberty Tunnels in 1924, the city of Pittsburgh became easily accessible to the South Hills area.

As the southern communities grew, county and city planners looked for a roadway that would connect eight important throughway and improved roads (Library Road, Nobles Lane, West Liberty Avenue, Banksville Road, Washington Pike, Noblestown Road, Steubenville Pike and Carson Street.) It was also viewed as a way to bring the cities of McKeesport, Clairton and Duquesne closer to Pittsburgh.

Construction - The Library Road Extension - 1929/1930

Construction began quickly. The first phase of construction would be the improvement of the Library Road Extension, which ran from Provost Road to Warrington Avenue. Modern sewers were laid near the West Liberty Avenue intersection back in 1925. Other infrastructure improvements would construction challenges would prove more difficult.

The road network at the Whited Street (Oak Street) intersection required a complete reconfiguration and reconstruction, as there was no actual through road at this point, just a merging of several different streets.

1922 Map showing intersection at the bottom
of Whited Street, then called Oak Street.
1922 map showing the road network at the bottom of Whited Street, then called Oak Street.

Another engineering difficulty was the intersection at Library Road. A heavily traveled interchange in the heart of Overbrook Borough, five roads all converged on that location.

Overbrook in 1895, from Glenbury Street    Intersection with Glenbury Street - 1930.
Left - The Library Road intersection, looking from Glenbury Street in 1895; Right - Glenbury intersection in 1930.

Library Road, Ivyglen Street, Hillview Avenue, Stewart Avenue and Glenbury Street all had to be merged with Saw Mill Run Boulevard. In addition to the multiple roadways, the design was complicated by the presence of Saw Mill Run Creek and tributaries that criss-crossed the terrain. The resulting interchange consisted of a concealed system of five bridges with tunnels to channel the water.

Saw Mill Run/Library Road construction - 1929.    Saw Mill Run/Library Road construction - 1929.

Saw Mill Run/Library Road construction - 1929.    Saw Mill Run/Library Road construction - 1929.
Construction of the Saw Mill Run/Library Road interchange in 1929.

Saw Mill Run and Nobles Lane - 1929.    Saw Mill Run Boulevard Construction - 1929.
Left - Saw Mill Run Boulevard at the Nobles Lane intersection, near Whited Street, before paving; Right - Rail tracks were laid along the roadway and used to transport materials during construction.

Saw Mill Run Boulevard at Edgebrook Avenue - 1929.    Mixing Center at Edgebrook Avenue - 1929.
Loads of aggregate were dumped directly from
rail cars and cement was mixed on the spot.
Left - The intersection with Edgebrook Avenue in 1929; Right - Cement was mixed at the Edgebrook location. Aggregate was dumped directly from rail cars into the mixer. The product was then transported via small-gauge rail car where needed.

After Library Road, other intersections included Maytide Street, Nobles Lane, Whited Street, Edgebrook Avenue, Bausman Street, West Liberty Avenue and the Liberty Tunnels. The first phase of construction was completed on December 1, 1929. A special dedication and parade was held in the Spring of 1930.

1930 parade in Ovebrook dedicating the
completion of the first phase of the
construction of Saw Mill Run Boulevard.
A 1930 parade in Overbrook celebrating the completion of the first phase
of the Saw Mill Run Boulevard project.

During the next phase of construction, the boulevard was extended from Warrington Avenue to the Banksville Traffic Circle, with exits onto Banksville Road and Woodville Avenue. This second stretch of roadway, with intersections at Crane Avenue and Woodruff Street, opened in the Fall of 1930.

Construction - The West End Bypass - 1949/1951

Originally proposed in 1939 by famed planner, Robert Moses, as part of the "Moses Plan", construction on the Saw Mill Run Extension, better known as the West End Bypass, began in 1949. The 1.1 mile expressway began at the Banksville Traffic Circle and ran to the West End Bridge.

The extension was completed in 1951. The Banksville Traffic Circle was eliminated during the construction of the Parkway West (US279) in the mid-1950s. The loop was replaced with a modern interchange that connected Saw Mill Run Blvd, the West End Bypass, Banksville Road, Woodville Avenue, the soon-to-be-completed Fort Pitt Tunnels and the Parkway.

Saw Mill Run Boulevard at the intersection with West
Liberty Avenue and the Liberty Tunnels - 1948.    Saw Mill Run at the Banksville Circle in 1949. This
was the end of the Boulevard until the construction
of the West End Bypass in the late-1950s.
Left - Saw Mill Run Blvd (flowing left-to-right) at the junction with West Liberty Ave and the Liberty Tunnels in 1948;
Right - The Banksville Traffic Circle, once the northernmost part of the Boulevard, in the late 1940s.

Saw Mill Run Boulevard at the intersection with West
Liberty Avenue and the Liberty Tunnels - 1948.
Post-Gazette image from November 1949 showing the excavation of the hillside along the proposed route of the bypass.

The Banksville Circle in 1950 showing the beginning
phases of the construction of the West End Bypass
which extended Saw Mill Run Blvd to Carson Street.    The new interchange at the Fort Pitt Tunnels
eliminated the old Banksville Circle and helped
extend the Saw Mill Run Blvd to Carson Street.
The Banksville Traffic Circle, shown during construction of the West End Bypass in 1950, was replaced with the modern Fort Pitt Tunnel interchange in the mid-1950s. Saw Mill Run Boulevard was now complete from Overbrook to the West End.

Further Improvements - 1990/present

After sixty years of service, Saw Mill Run Boulevard began to see improvements made during the 1990s and 2000s. In the early 1990s median barriers were installed from Whited Street north to the Parkway West interchange. In 1998 work began on a new traffic design where Saw Mill Run meets West Liberty Avenue and the Liberty Tunnels.

The heavily-traveled interchange, which handles over 100,000 vehicles per day, had been a bottleneck for years. Plans were in place in 1957 for a design change, but they were never put into action. Finally, in 1999, the new interchange was completed and has been hailed as a major improvement.

The Liberty Tunnels South
Portal Interchange - 1999.

Construction of a new traffic design pattern at the equally-crowded Northern Terminus of Saw Mill Run Boulevard, approaching Carson Street and the West End Bridge, began in the mid-2000s. An additional lane was added to the highway and the hillside was stabilized.

The intersection at the West End Circle was redesigned, with the construction of a third tunnel to allow a more coordinated traffic flow. The project was completed in 2010. The new interchange was welcomed by motorists as a major improvement.

The West End interchange in 1951 prior to
the opening of the Saw Mill Run Extension.    The new West End Circle traffic design where
Saw Mill Run Boulevard meets Carson Street.
Left - The Saw Mill Run Extension approaching the West End Interchange prior to opening in 1951;
Right - The new traffic design pattern at the Northern Terminus of Saw Mill Run Boulevard.

Finally, near the southern edge of the Boulevard, a complete rehabilitation of the overcrowded Library Road (State Route 88) intersection is planned for the near future. Initial plans favored a design similar to the interchange at the Liberty Tunnels.

After over a decade of deliberation and delays, new plans were introduced in October, 2010, favoring a jughandle design. The many decaying bridges along the construction path will be rebuilt. Utilities and traffic signals will be improved. The roadway will be completely rebuilt. At a cost of $20 million, the construction project began in 2013 and is scheduled to be completed in November 2015.

The interchange at Saw Mill Run
Boulevard and Library Road in 2010.    Glenbury Street approaching the intersection
of Saw Mill Run and Library Road, 2010.
Left - The five-way Route 51/Route 88 intersection looking south along Saw Mill Run Boulevard;
Right - Glenbury Street approaching the Rt 51/Rt 88 intersection; Below - New design plans for the interchange.

Design for the new Route 51/Route 88 exchange,
introduced by PennDot in October, 2010.


Photos of Locations Along Saw Mill Run Boulevard

Saw Mill Run at West Liberty Avenue - 1925.    Saw Mill Run at West Liberty Avenue - 1925.
Sewer line construction on Saw Mill Run at the intersection with West Liberty Avenue and the Liberty Tunnels in 1925.
Left - Looking south towards Bausman Street; Right - Looking north towards Warrington Avenue.

Saw Mill Run Boulevard at Maytide Street - 1929.    Saw Mill Run at Maytide Street - 1929.
Left - Saw Mill Run at Maytide Street after paving (left) and a section further north prior to resurfacing in 1929.

Bakey's Auto Service - 1930.    The Bakey Residence at the corner
of St. Norbert Street - 1930.
Bakey's Auto Service (left) at Maytide Street and the Bakey home on the corner of St. Norbert Street in 1930.

Butler Grocers at the corner of Glenbury Street - 1930.    Saw Mill Run and Whited Street - 1930.
The A&P grocery store (left) near Glenbury Street and the intersection with Whited Street (right) in 1930.

The Overbrook business district - 1934.    The Overbrook Market on Saw Mill Run Boulevard - 1934.
The Overbrook fire house (left) across from Maytide Street and the Overbrook Market in 1934.

The Saw Mill Run Garage - 1934.    Overbrook School - 1934.
The Saw Mill Run Garage (left) and Overbrook School in 1934.

The Overbrook Business District - 1936.    The Overbrook Business District - 1936.
Saw Mill Run Boulevard looking south through the Overbrook business district towards Library Road in 1936.

Saw Mill Run Boulevard and Nobles Lane - 1936.    Saw Mill Run Boulevard near Whited Street - 1938.
Saw Mill Run Boulevard near the intersection with Whited Street and Nobles Lane in 1936 (left) and 1938 (right).

Saw Mill Run Boulevard near Nobles Lane - 1934.    Saw Mill Run Boulevard near West Liberty Avenue - 1938.
Left - The Oak Viaduct at the intersection with Whited Street and Nobles Lane in 1934; Right - Saw Mill Run
approaching the West Liberty Avenue/Liberty Bridge intersection, taken from Warrington Avenue in 1938.

The original Eat 'n Park Restaurant - 1949    The Horning Farm in 1895. This is the
site of present-day St. Norbert Church.
The original Eat'n Park restaurant (left) opened in 1949. The Horning Farm (right), where present day
St. Norbert Church is located, in 1895. Today, this is the location of the Library Road interchange.

Barton's Garage on Saw Mill Run Blvd - 1934.    Fred's Auto Sales - 1949.
Barton's Garage (left) in 1934 and Fred's Auto Sales in 1949.

Al Schwartz Used Cars - 1950.    Powers Motor Sales - 1950.
Al Schwartz sold the finest used cars in town, and Powers Motor Sales advertised a Safe Buy in 1950.

Bausman Avenue looking towards Kaiser Avenue
(Saw Mill Run). Brookline is on the far side of the road.    Looking up Bausman Avenue from Saw Mill Run Road (Kaiser Avenue).
At Bausman Avenue, 1909, looking towards McKinley Park (left) and towards Kaiser Avenue (right). Saw Mill Run was
called Kaiser Avenue at the turn of the century. Brookline begins on the far side of the road in the righthand photo.

Castle Shannon Railroad Bridge at Bausman Street.    The Oak Viaduct at Nobles Lane near Whited Street.
The McKinley Bridge at Bausman Street (left) and the Reflectorville Viaduct at Edgebrook Avenue.

Bausman Street Bridge.    The Oak Viaduct at Nobles Lane near Whited Street.
The wooden McKinley Bridge at Bausman Street was replaced with a steel structure in 1929. The Oak Viaduct was renovated
that same year. Both were used by the Port Authority until 1993 and have since been replaced with modern structures.

Overbrook School in 1960.
Overbrook Elementary School in 1960. Once known as Overbrook Central, the school was built in 1928 and closed in 2001.
The school is being renovated into a Senior Citizen assisted-living apartment complex.

For more pictures Of Saw Mill Run Boulevard and the valley over the past century:

Random Images Of Saw Mill Run

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