Why It's Called The Blue Route

Posted: December 15, 1991

To the makers of maps, it's the Mid-County Expressway. To the painters of highway signs, it's I-476.

But to everyone else, it is - and probably will always remain - the Blue Route.

Why?

Henry D. Harral knows, better than anyone.

After all, the Blue Route began as the flick of his wrist on a map.

Harral, 89, Delaware County's planning director in the 1950s, thought the western suburbs could use a north-south thoroughfare.

So he and some other planners took out their colored pencils and drew some potential routes.

"There was a central one in blue and an eastern one in red. One proposed route west of Media was penciled in green," Harral said.

The green route was too far west and the red route (sometimes known as the yellow route) too populous, so planners settled on a path between them, the blue one, following the beds of the Crum and Darby Creeks.

The chosen path became known as the Blue Route, Harral recalled, because it was "easy to say."

By the time the Blue Route was authorized for construction, in 1967, Harral was secretary of highways in Pennsylvania.

"I had expected in three to four years from then, I would be riding over it," said Harral.

The Blue Route had come under fire almost as soon as it was chosen. It made herky-jerky progress through legal blockades erected by angry citizens and the demands of toughening environmental regulations.

In 1970, a two-mile stretch opened, tying the Schuylkill Expressway to Chemical Road in Plymouth. (In 1988 a section opened between MacDade Boulevard and I-95).

In 1985, the logjam broke. U.S. District Judge Donald W. VanArtsdalen overruled objections by Swarthmore College and others that the highway would destroy parks and historic landmarks. On March 24, 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review his rulings.

"It is a magnificent highway and I'm tickled. I hope I'll have the pleasure of driving over it," Harral said.

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