For many of us, when someone says there’s traffic on the Blue Route, we know exactly what they’re referring to. The highway isn’t referred to as the Mid-County Expressway, the Veterans Memorial Highway (its official name), or even 476. It’s just known simply as The Blue Route. But why is this 20-mile stretch of highway called the Blue Route? Well, read on to get the answer to a question you didn’t even ask.
The thought of a road along the current day route dates back to as early as 1929. Urban sprawl from Philadelphia was in its infancy, so nothing really came of it until President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act in 1956. This act authorized $25 billion for the construction of 41,000 miles of the Interstate Highway System. The act was basically the jumping off point for the creation of all the highways we see today. In turn, this Act transferred responsibility for the expressway to the then-Pennsylvania Department of Highways.
It was at this time that the Pennsylvania Department of Highways drew up three possible routes to connect Interstate 476 (later known as the Northeast Extension) to I-95 just north of the City of Chester. The three options were a Red (later yellow) Route, a Green Route, and a Blue Route. The Red Route was the eastern-most path and cut through high-population areas along the western section of Springfield Township. The Green Route was the western-most path which would have taken the route West of Media. The Blue Route basically split the difference.
Eventually, after much deliberation, the Red Route was deemed to be too expensive and would affect many densely populated areas. The Green Route, although the cheapest alternative, would provide the least amount of service or relief for traffic. The Blue Route was selected as the most practical alignment. To say the construction of the highway would see it’s fair share of difficulties would be an understatement. The project would encounter many obstacles along the way, including environmental impact concerns, land acquisition delays, conflicts with local municipalities, and a budget crisis that would drag the construction out for years. The Pennsylvania Department of Highways broke ground on the project in 1966, but the highway wouldn’t be fully complete and connected from the Pennsylvania Turnpike to I-95 until 1991. Compared to that timeline, D.L. Howell gets plans approved at lightning speed.
So, the Blue Route is called the Blue Route simply because it was a color someone chose to outline a path on a conceptual highway plan. A nice, simple answer to a project that was anything but during its development and construction.
Photo by Wikipedia Commons. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/67/I-476_Blue_Route_Map.jpg