Allegheny County Belt System – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Atlas Obscura

Allegheny County Belt System

Color-coded signs direct drivers on a network of routes designed to avoid Pittsburgh traffic. 


While the Pittsburgh metropolitan area lacks a dedicated beltway (ring road) system surrounding the city, urban travelers have another way to circumvent its traffic. Since the 1950s, a series of signs with large, colored circles signify “belts” that wend their way through various towns and suburbs in the hills of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Pittsburgh’s major highways (known as the Parkways North, East, and West) direct highway traffic straight toward the downtown area of the city, and there are no nearby expressways in the surrounding area. When Pittsburgh’s increasingly congested traffic continued to grow during the steel boom, an engineer with the county, Joseph White, laid out different routes around the city to help mediate the issue, making a belt system.

These paths meander through various suburbs and towns on the outskirts of Pittsburgh and can be used as a navigational aid. The routes were marked with signs with large, colorful dots, with the Red Belt being outermost and the Blue Belt close to the city. In the 1990s, the city itself added a Purple Belt downtown as a nod to the color-coded navigational network and as part of the Pittsburgh Wayfinder System.

While some in the area may see the belt system as irrelevant, the signs are still standing and continue to be maintained across the county, directing travelers on secluded routes around traffic.

Know Before You Go

Only one Purple Belt sign remains at the given address. All other belts can be accessed by PA Route 65. Just look for the signs.

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