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If you travel frequently through Pennsylvania, or between the mid-Atlantic and the Midwest, Breezewood needs no introduction. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, this image might:
It has become a meme, particularly among Internet critics of capitalism: a half mile of commercial excess in the mountains of Pennsylvania, far from any population centers or tourist attractions. Yet, the origins of Breezewood have more to do with governments trying to outsmart each other than corporate greed.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike was built in the 1940s, one of the first expressways in the country. When the Interstate System was proposed in the late 1950s, most of it was grandfathered into the system as Interstate 76. Another interstate, I-70, was planned to run from Baltimore and Washington west to Utah by way of Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Denver. To cross the Appalachians, it was to double up with I-76 and use the existing Pennsylvania Turnpike.
However, to prevent states from funneling interstate traffic onto toll highways, the federal government forbade states from building interstate connections that ended at a toll road. This left the commonwealth of Pennsylvania with two options it found unpalatable: using solely state money to build the interchange with the eastern leg of Interstate 70, or eliminating tolls on the Turnpike entirely. So, in its wisdom, the state decided to end Interstate 70 at the Lincoln Highway (U.S. Highway 30), and direct I-70 traffic onto the Lincoln Highway to a nearby, pre-existing exit with the Turnpike. Technically, interstate travelers had the option of continuing onto the Lincoln Highway for free.
This created a sort of unofficial, mandatory rest stop along Interstate 70. Businesses, from local mom-and-pops to multinational corporations, rushed in to take advantage. The Internet loves to argue about it, but Breezewood is nothing more than a state government’s attempt to get around the strings the federal government put on an offer of highway money. Still, if you insist on finding something sinister in Breezewood, you can start with the next town going east on the Lincoln Highway:
Man, Cocaine Mitch is everywhere.Published in