History of the Warren Street and West Shore Bypasses

2013-01-15
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Warren Street was constructed around 1920, running from Fayette Street near the Tulpehocken Creek east to a dead end near the Schuylkill River.

In 1949, plans were made to build a four-lane bridge across Tulpehocken Creek at Warren Street. As part of this plan, nine blocks of Warren Street, from its dead end at the Tulpehocken Creek to Schuylkill Avenue, were to be widened to 80 feet to provide the city's approach to the bridge.

The bridge and widening was approved with the provision that Warren Street only be widened as far as Schuylkill Avenue as not to build a bypass route through a residential area. Glenside property owners didn't want the same experience that befell Mineral Spring Road, which was a highly-desirable residential area before it was opened to heavy traffic.

Despite opposition construction on the bridge and the Warren Street Bypass between Penn Avenue and Schuylkill Avenue began in 1950. The first step toward the construction of the by-pass was taken when core drilling operations started on the west bank of the Tulpehocken Creek.

In 1953, the Park Avenue Extension (now a part of the Warren Street Bypass along US 222/US 422) and the Warren Street Bypass from US 422 in Wyomissing to Tulpehocken Creek, along with the Tulpehocken Creek bridge, were finished, with a continuation of the Warren Street Bypass northeast from PA 183 to US 222 (Allentown Pike, now 5th Street Highway) proposed.

Construction on the extension of the Warren Street Bypass to US 222 began on February 14, 1956 with the process of widening of the existing Warren Street. The PA 183 bridge over the bypass was built in 1957. In 1959, the Warren Street Bypass extension to US 222 was opened to traffic with the portion of Warren Street between Tulpehocken Creek and PA 183 widened to four lanes. The Warren Street Bypass included an interchange with the under-construction Reading Bypass (now US 422, West Shore Bypass) southwest of Tulpehocken Creek when it opened in 1959.

An extension of the Warren Street Bypass from US 222 to Pricetown Road was proposed in 1962. Two routes for the extension were proposed: one following a more southerly route as it does today and another following a more northerly route along Spring Valley Road, passing near the Bernhart Reservoir. The extension of the bypass was intended to provide access to a growing industrial park.

Dotted lines show two routes for proposed
extension between US 222 and Pricetown Road
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In 1966, plans were made to make the portion of the Warren Street Bypass through the Glenside neighborhood of Reading limited-access by eliminating at-grade intersections with local streets, resulting in the streets coming to a dead end at the bypass.

The more southerly route for the Warren Street Bypass extension between US 222 and Pricetown Road was selected by 1969. By 1976, US 222 was routed to bypass Reading, with the route following the Warren Street Bypass between US 422 in Wyomissing and Allentown Pike. Also in 1976, construction began on the extension of the Warren Street Bypass between US 222 and Pricetown Road. The portion of the Warren Street Bypass between Spring Valley Road and Pricetown Road was completed in July 1979 while the portion between 11th Street and Spring Valley Road was completed in December 1979. In 1980, the remainder of the Warren Street Bypass extension between US 222 and 11th Street was completed.

Southerly route for Warren Street Bypass extension
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Plans for linking the Warren Street Bypass to the north of Reading with the Philadelphia Pike east of Mount Penn began in 1956. The projected super-road was depicted as a substantial contribution to the economic welfare of central Berks County, not to mention its role as a vital element in resolving the multiplying problems of traffic congestion in the central business section of the city.

In 1958 the city received plans of the "West Shore Bypass." The bypass, known officially as the "Reading Distribution Route" started at the Warren Street Bypass, south of the Tulpehocken Creek, and continued southeasterly, paralleling the Schuylkill River. The highway crossed the river and continued southeasterly just north of the Pennsylvania Railroad, then south of Forest Hills Memorial Park Cemetery to the Philadelphia Pike below Reiffton. Construction started later that year.

On August 6, 1965 one of Berks County's most extensive and expensive highway projects - the West Shore Bypass of Reading - went into the official books with the switching on of 276 lights.

In 1973 work began on the Warren Street Bypass to replace the four-lane State Hill road bridge with a new structure to carry six lanes.

In 1998 work was completed on a road linking the Warren Street and West Shore Bypasses with the road formerly known as the Road to Nowhere completing the connection to US 222 North.

2006 marked the completion of U.S. Route 222 Expressway between Reading and Lancaster. Discussion among Berks County planning officials to improve the corridor began in the 1950's and first appeared on the Central Berks Planning Study as two separate projects - the extension of the Warren Street Bypass and the reconstruction of Route 222/Lancaster Pike - in 1958. The projects were subsequently included in the initial Reading Area Transportation Study Plan of 1972. However, funding fell short and the projects were postponed in the mid 1970's; despite the purchase of several parcels of right-of-way and construction of a major interchange on Warren Street at US Route 422. The projects languished for the better part of the next decade, but they remained a top priority among county planners, legislators, business leaders and various community interests.

Reading and Lancaster Expressway
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A Task Force of Berks County municipalities and businesses raised money to purchase critical rights-of-way in an effort to keep the projects moving. The purchases were funded in part by a commitment of $7.5 million from Berks County, as well as donations by private sector interests and four municipalities through which the project passes. These local funding efforts helped keep the projects moving forward during funding shortages at the state and federal level that occurred in the early-to-mid 1990's.

Finally, in mid-1997, with construction funding identified, the Federal Highway Administration issued a favorable Record of Decision, clearing the way for the start of final design and the eventual construction of the new Route 222.

 





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