History of the Highway System
The Department of Highways, the forerunner to PennDOT, was created by an Act that was passed on May 31, 1903. Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker signed into the law the creation of the Department, which was one of the first in the country.
The highway system of Pennsylvania was officially created on May 31, 1911 under the direction of the Sproul Act, with 8,835 miles of highway falling under the control of the Department of Highways. However, the greatest growth in the system occurred in 1931 when the Penrose Rural Roads Act gave control of another 20,156 miles of rural roads to the Commonwealth. During this time, the Department of Highways, at the direction of Governor Gifford Pinchot, began an extensive project of paving roads in rural areas known as the "get the farmer out of the mud" program.
The next big addition to the highway system occurred during the 1950s to the 1980s, when the Interstate Highway System was built. The Interstates comprise only 1,750 miles of entire Pennsylvania highway system.
On May 6, 1970, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) was created by Act 120. The reason for the new department was to consolidate transportation-related duties previously performed by the Departments of Commerce, Revenue, Community Affairs, Forests and Waters, Military Affairs and other state agencies.
It was around this time that Pennsylvania started to become known for poor road quality. The reason for that was due to the bond financing used for Interstate construction. As the years wore on, the interest on the bonds continued to increase. By the 1980s, it was calculated that 150% of the Department of Transportation's budget would be used to pay just the interest on the debt. This would mean every employee would be laid off, every PennDOT office would close, and the highway system crumble. It would take an act by the legislature in the late 1980s to forgive the debt and allow the Department of Transportation to begin to use its entire budget for construction and maintenance.
History of Pennsylvania Highways
Many of the people who stop by to peruse the information contained on my site do not really know the history of the site. Pennsylvania Highways was created in the summer of 1997 when Mr. Scott Oglesby, also known as "Kurumi," placed a challenge on his website for people to create a website about highways for their own state. He had just created one for Connecticut and many of the states, including Pennsylvania, did not have an online presence at the time. One day, I was glancing at his extensive site and saw this "call to arms" and decided to take up the challenge. It is ironic, because I had been thinking of ideas for a website around that time but could not think of any.
The first installment of the site came in July 1997 when it was to become a part of a much grander idea I had for a site with map scans and road information from around the country. I decided to scale-down my ambitious plans to just concentrate on the highway system of Pennsylvania, and with that Pennsylvania Highways and Byways debuted on America Online's server with the lengthy address of http://members.aol.com/jjkitsko/roads.html. Later I decided that the name sounded too sing-songy, so I shortened it to just Pennsylvania Highways. As time went on through the rest of 1997, I began building more and more pages; however, under the screen name of pahighways. In April 1998, I changed the address to better reflect what the page was about and the site moved to http://members.aol.com/jjkitsko/PAHIGHWAYS.html. Construction continued on the Interstate pages through the rest of 1998, with the final pages completed in January 1999. Also in the first month of the last year of the 20th Century, the main page was moved yet again to http://members.aol.com/pahighways/main.html to consolidate all of the pages under one location and the first history pages dedicated to the US highways made their debut.
By 2000, it was becoming clear that Pennsylvania Highways would no longer have a home at America Online. In March 2000, I was uploading pictures of US 1 and hit the megabyte limit under another screen name. It was clear that as the site was moving toward a more graphic intensive classification, a move would be in order. I began looking for space on places such as Xoom which became the defunct NBCi, but I did not want another extremely long address. Other webmasters were moving their sites to domains which got me to thinking about doing the same. On March 26, 2000, pahighways.com was created and the site officially debuted on June 1, 2000. From that point until November 2000, the work on the website involved editing the original pages to change the codes to conform to the new locations of graphics and pages. On January 1, 2001, the pages on America Online were deleted and the transition completed.
A new site dedicated to the highway system of Pittsburgh debuted on June 21, 2000, and a similar one for Philadelphia on January 6, 2001. They moved to their own domains in March 2004, and just three months later on June 3 the capital of Harrisburg got its own site. The Great Lakes port of Erie received its own site on August 1, 2005. The tri-cities of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton as well as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre areas got their own sites on November 1, 2012.
I hope that you continue to find Pennsylvania Highways a useful, interesting, and entertaining site for many years to come.