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A Flinn by any other name is still a state road in the North Hills

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By Nafari Vanaski
Thursday, July 25, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

As a house guest of my future sister-in-law and her family a decade ago, there were two things I knew for certain as a temporary resident of the North Hills:

(1) Three months is too long to stay with family. Even if they continue to tell you that you can stay as long as you want, don't believe it.

(2) The road I traveled regularly to get to the nearby tennis club was Route 8, or William Flynn Highway.

I know this because it was a major artery to everywhere you needed to go in that corner of the world, even though it was often congested and took forever to navigate. So I got to know those road signs well.

But the other day, while driving out to Gibsonia, I noticed something odd. As I lurched along Route 8, all the new-looking street signs now read “William Flinn Highway.”

For a second, I thought I had been reading it wrong for years until I looked down at my GPS, which told me I still had three miles left to travel on “William Flynn Highway.”

This wouldn't be that big a deal if the road were named after a tree or an animal. But since we are talking about a person, did these new signs mean that the spelling of his last name was wrong all these years? Or is it wrong now? Either way, this would definitely at the very least be considered a researching fail by PennDOT and/or local officials.

For the record, it's William F-L-I-N-N. He was a construction magnate involved in building the Liberty, Wabash and Armstrong tunnels. And I have to say this: When you realize that he was a big player in the political game whose construction company benefited from his connections, you have to wonder whether there was a shortage of people to name roads after.

I would nominate myself but considering the problems with spelling Flinn's name, I can only wonder how my name would come out on a street sign.

Steve Cowan, a PennDOT spokesman, told me that no one at the agency knew how the signs with the “Flynn” spelling came to be along the state route. He confirmed that the “Flinn” spelling is correct and requested that the public notify PennDOT if they see any road signs that say otherwise.

If it seems like PennDOT was somewhat confused about the road name, however, so were residents and business owners.

“It should be ‘Y-N-N,' ” said Carole Wolfe, office assistant at John Utz Agency, an insurance firm at 4485 William F-L-Y-N-N Highway. Her sentiment was shared by several other residents and business owners I talked with on Route 8 this week.

“Actually,” I told her, “it's supposed to be ‘I-N-N.' ”

Though she said her curiosity is piqued by the name issue, it is not enough that the office letterhead will ever change.

“I don't pay attention to it because in my mind, it's Flynn.”

Nafari Vanaski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8669, or on Twitter @NafariTrib.

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