Proposed Golden Triangle - 1939
"The Moses Plan" and Point State Park

An Artists conception of Robert Moses'
plan for the Golden Triangle - 1939.

As Pittsburgh emerged from the Great Depression, efforts were begun to clean up the city's urban area and to provide better transportation access to and from the Golden Triangle and the surrounding suburbs.

Under the leadership of Mayor Cornelius Scully, the city's planners went to work. The first proposal was for the creation of a 36-acre memorial park at the Point, including the restoration of Fort Duquesne and Fort Pitt on their original sites. In 1938 this proposal was put before the National Park Service in Washington.

In 1939, the city hired New York consultant Robert Moses to develop a long-term plan for a new system of roadways to solve the problem of traffic congestion within the Golden Triangle area. Three months later, in November of 1939, the comprehensive "Moses Plan" was unveiled.

At a total cost of $38,000,000, the plan included a Pitt Parkway, from a point east of Wilkinsburg to downtown Pittsburgh; a cross-town highway at the upper boarder of the Triangle; reconstruction of Duquesne Way as the first step in a highway system to encompass the Triangle; removal of the Wabash Station and railroad tracks leading to it; improvement of Saw Mill Run Boulevard; removal of trolleys from Downtown streets; removal of the B&O Railroad station to clear a route for the parkway along the Monongehela River. The plan discarded the proposed restoration of Fort Pitt as "impractical and undesirable."

Preliminary work had already begun in early 1939, with the $1.8 million widening of Bigelow Boulevard to four lanes, and the $3 million two-level Water Street Bypass. In January of 1940, city and county officials announced that the "Moses Plan" would be put into motion with reconstruction of Duquesne Way, at a cost of $2.5 million, as the first step. Next on the list were a $1.4 million Liberty Tubes grade seperation plaza and a $1.5 million extension of Saw Mill Run Boulevard to the West End.

In October of 1940, Mayor Scully announced plans for a park at the Point, and a new Point Park commission was created, with Fred Weir named as chairman. In February of 1942, archeologists excavating near the Boulevard of the Allies and Liberty Avenue found parts of the curtain of Fort Pitt.

In August, 1943, Duquesne Way was completed and opened to traffic. The county commissioners announced that the next step in the Moses Plan would be the construction of a $10 million cross-town highway.

As work continued on the roadway network in 1945, Richard K. Mellon, president of the Pittsburgh Regional Planning Association, urged concerted action on the plans for the proposed $6 million state park at the Point. The following year, the Commonwealth asked city and county officials to contribute a total of $6 million towards the proposed $31 million Penn-Lincoln Parkway.

As with most plans, the Moses Plan underwent some changes as it evolved over time. The plan made use of the existing Wabash, Point and Manchester Bridges. With the Point State Park project proposing to make use of the entire Point Park area, it was decided that the Wabash would be demolished along with the rest of the terminal structures, and the other two point bridges would eventually be removed in favor of new bridges to replace the old spans.

A 1956 LIFE magazine display
touts Pittsburgh's new image.

The Wabash Bridge was dismantled in 1948 and in February of 1949, the state purchased 13 acres from the Pennsylvania Railroad to clear the way for the proposed Point Park. Soon afterwards, detailed plans for the construction of the Penn-Lincoln Parkway were disclosed, including a large intersection at Carnegie.

Construction work progresses on
the Penn-Lincoln Parkway - 1954
The Penn-Lincoln Parkway is nearing completion. A gap in the highway near the J&L Steel Mill
and the Boulevard of the Allies connection needs to be completed to link the two sections.

Work on these two massive projects soon began. In May of 1950, Governor Duff gave the signal that set into motion an 1800-pound demolition ball that began wrecking a 103-year old building at 110 Penn Avenue. This was the first of many destined for destruction in the 36-acre Point Park area. The area was cleared quickly, and by January of 1953 grading and seeding was underway at the new park.

Construction work progresses on
 the Penn-Lincoln Parkway - 1955
Work progresses on the Penn-Lincoln Parkway near downtown Pittsburgh.
The Boulevard of the Allies runs atop the hillside to the left.

Work and planning continued on the proposed Penn-Lincoln Parkway, and plans were announced for a toll tunnel under Mount Washington as the most feasible way to finance that link in the highway. In 1954, contracts were awarded for the basic design of the $25 million Fort Pitt Tunnel under Duquesne Heights. In early 1956, contracts totalling $10.5 million were awarded for two major projects on the Penn-Lincoln Parkway, the downtown link and the Fort Pitt Bridge.

The Penn-Lincoln Parkway upon
completion of the downtown portion
of the roadway. All interchanges
have been completed and all that
remains is to open the Fort Pitt
Bridge to connect the Parkway East
with the Parkway West on the other
side of the Fort Pitt Tunnel.
The Penn-Lincoln Parkway in 1958. The Blvd of the Allies is atop the hillside to the left.

In April of that same year ground was broken for construction of the Fort Pitt Tunnels to link the eastern and western sections of the Penn-Lincoln Parkway. Drilling of the tunnels began in August of 1956. In January of 1958, in its 12th year of construction, the Penn-Lincoln Parkway was directly linked to the downtown area with the opening of the Grant Street outbound ramp.

The Fort Pitt Bridge in 1958
is nearing completion.
The Fort Pitt Bridge in 1958 is nearing completion.

The State Highway Commission, in November of 1958, awarded contracts totalling $3.4 million for the construction of the Crosstown Boulevard, and in June of 1959, the Fort Pitt Bridge was completed. The tunnel opened in September of 1960, and that same year work was begun on a $20 million extension of the Penn-Lincoln Parkway eastward, linking it to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

The Golden Triangle
 1963
The Golden Triangle in 1963, showing the results of the Moses Plan. Also shown above is the "Bridge To Nowhere."

After the Fort Pitt Bridge was completed, work immediately began on the Fort Duquesne Bridge, on the opposite end of the Crosstown Boulevard. Interestingly, the Fort Duquesne Bridge was completed in 1963, but its span ended without the construction of a bridge ramp on the North Side. For several years the bridge was referred to as the "Bridge To Nowhere." When work began on Three Rivers Stadium in 1968, construction also started on the northern bridge ramps.

The Fort Duquesne Bridge in 1969
The Fort Duquesne Bridge's northern ramps are nearing completion in 1969. Three Rivers Stadium is also under construction.

When the Fort Duquesne Bridge was finally completed in 1968, it marked the formal end of the implementation of the Moses Plan. The arterial network coming into and out of the city was now complete. Although the plan did not unfold exactly as originally designed, when completed it accomplished everything that Robert Moses had intended, and the Golden Triangle's look had been altered in many positive ways, both aesthetically and functionally.

When the old Manchester and Point bridges were dismantled in 1970, they cleared the way for the final development of Point State Park. The Park's signature attraction, the 150 foot fountain was dedicated on August 30, 1974. This marked the end of the two projects, the "Moses Plan" and the creation of Point State Park, both begun during the administration of Mayor Scully.

The fountain at Point State Park - 1974

Pittsburgh - Renaissance and Renewal
by Edward K Muller

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