Today I received an order from PennDOT which included a copy of the 2011 official road map. It is not surprising PennDOT went to the trouble of printing one, since we elected a new Governor last year and therefore have a new Secretary of Transportation. These are the changes since the 2010 edition:
Fayette County PA Turnpike 43 completed from West Virginia to Exit 2 and the US 119/PA 51 interchange to Exit 15
Indiana County US 22 is now a four-lane, divided highway from just east of Blairsville to Armagh
Lycoming County US 15 upgraded to an expressway from north of PA 14 to PA 184
Philadelphia Inset Street Road E-ZPass-only slip ramp completed
Those are all the changes to the 2011 official road map. For most of the URLs on the map, there is a likewise corresponding Microsoft Tag to scan with a smartphone. However, the link for VisitPA uses a regular QR Code.
No longer appearing on the map is the yellow shading of “Selected Built Up Areas.” Meanwhile, the dark, shaded areas of urban concentrations remain. State Game Lands have changed from a peach coloring to a tan one. The State Park textured color used to indicate the extent of said park has been removed, but it remains in the city insets.
Above all, the US 22/US 322 shield error on the 2010 map on the Penn-Lincoln Parkway at PA 60 is now the correct US 22/US 30 shield. There is now an inset for the Elk Scenic Drive in the upper left corner over Lake Erie. A yellow highlight instead of an orange one indicates its path on the main map.
It has the same dimensions as the previous year’s map. However, this year’s cover features a picture of Independence Hall.
After the 65th Little League World Series champion was crowned last month, the first Williamsport Road Enthusiast Meet was held this month, specifically today. I’d like to thank all who attended and for making the trip for the first meet in north central Pennsylvania.
The meet began as usual at 12 PM at the Bullfrog Brewery in downtown Williamsport. The food was good as well as the conversations. Mike Pruett brought some Maryland official highway maps and I brought copies of the new Turnpike System map as well as some old copies of the Pennsylvania official highway map for everyone.
After lunch, we hopped in our cars and followed US 15 to see the improvements made to the corridor over the past decade in order for it to be designated Interstate 99. There are numerous signs along the way denoting it as the “Future I-99 Corridor.”
The first stop was at the Cogan House interchange just north of the PA 14 interchange. What is interesting about this particular interchange is that the road that connects the two directions of US 15 are the original southbound lanes. They needed to be replaced due to sharp curves at the bottom of the Steam Valley hill, but the section here was retained and turned into an interchange for Cogan House.
We continued north to the next stop, at the next interchange, at PA 184 in Steam Valley. Prior to 2010, this was an at-grade intersection but of course had to be upgraded to an interchange for the Interstate 99 designation to be applied. In order to create the junction, the right-of-ways of both US 15 and PA 184 were changed. As I mentioned above, the existing southbound lanes could not be used so the new ones were shifted eastward and the alignment of PA 184 was shifted southward. An interesting anomaly was created in that PA 184 technically doesn’t end at US 15, but rather just to the east of the diamond interchange at Steam Mill Road.
I asked the group if they wanted to clinch US 15 from Williamsport to the New York state line, and everyone agreed we might as well since we were that far north. Crossing into New York, the roadway narrows down to two lanes through an interesting temporary interchange with very modern-looking light poles to illuminate the path. We made the first right to head back into Pennsylvania onto a road that connects to the old route of US 15 now known as Steuben County Route 115. Once in Lawrenceville, a few continued onto PA 287, which was extended northward after the expressway was completed to the west, and the rest onto PA 49 to head south on US 15.
The final stop of the tour was the beautiful Tioga Welcome Center, just south of the PA 287 interchange, which overlooks the Tioga Reservoir. Many have compared the recent flooding in the northern part of the state to that seen in the wake of Hurricane Agnes in 1972. That event was the impetus for construction of the reservoir, as the Allegheny Reservoir demonstrated the need by saving western Pennsylvania the destruction seen in the eastern part of the state.
I showed the group the original path below of US 15 through Tioga and how it’s alignment is now under water. Everyone was able to pick up brochures and maps, not only the 2010 official state one but also the 2008 Trucker’s Guide to Pennsylvania. It is a black-and-white version of the regular map and the only colors on it denote the various truck routes as well as specific information for “gear jockeys” such as low clearance points and locations of steep grades. After taking the group picture there with the spectacular backdrop, we said our farewells, and headed to our respective destinations.
I decided to set off on my literary journey of The Big Roads with an open mind and my Pennsylvania Turnpike bookmark. It seemed fitting considering I was reading a book about the Interstate System, and the Turnpike was one of the earliest segments of it that was completed.
When I say “an open mind” it is because I was a bit skeptical approaching reading this book. The reason being is there are many in the Pennsylvania Highways Library on the history of the Interstates. However, in the Introduction, author Earl Swift hooked me with his description of the trip across the country which he took to research The Big Roads. As part of that trip, he came through the southern portion of the Commonwealth on the historic Lincoln Highway. Earl, his daughter, and a friend of hers stayed on the Lincoln through Buckstown to Ligonier and eventually onto Pittsburgh, “…crawling from one stoplight to the next…” Unfortunately, that is a realistic description of travel down US 30 through Westmoreland and Allegheny counties!
The book takes readers on a journey, with a focus on persons who made the transition happen. Starting with Carl Fisher, a businessman in Indianapolis, who began his career selling bicycles. He then moved onto the “horseless carriage.” To demonstrate the power of the car, he built a racetrack outside Indianapolis. Once it was repaved with brick, the power of the automobile could be exhibited in the way he intended. He also got into the road-building business by backing the creation of the Lincoln Highway and its north-south counterpart, the Dixie Highway.
Along the way, author Swift introduces us to Thomas Harris MacDonald. Mr. MacDonald started his career in roads in Iowa by laying out their system. Then the Feds tapped him to do the same on a national scale. We also meet Dwight D. Eisenhower, who in 1919 as a young Army officer, got a yearning for good roads after a cross-country trip on the Lincoln Highway. Just under three decades later, he would experience superb roads — just not on this continent.
The one good road, whose idea and planning came from those Ike saw in Germany which were the forerunner of the Interstate System, was our very own Pennsylvania Turnpike. Just as safety was an impetus for the construction of the Interstates, the Turnpike was constructed to provide a safer alternative than the windy, mountainous, and narrow US 30. That was the primary route between Pittsburgh and the Mid-State area at the time.
Once Eisenhower got into the White House, he pushed for the need for high-speed, limited-access highways. He had seen the Autobahn used by his military to speed across Germany en route to Berlin. He did not need to look far for ideas. The Bureau of Public Roads had drawn up plans for such expressways; albeit tolled, while Ike was the Supreme Commander in World War II.
“The more things change, the more they stay the same” is a saying that often rings true. When talking about the debate Congress had over the Federal Aid Highway Act, it rings like Big Ben at high noon. Some legislators came out in favor of the plan. Others like Senator Albert Gore, the inventor of the Internet’s father, argued that it “…could lead the country to inflationary ruin.” Senator Harry Byrd said that “…nothing has been proposed during my twenty-two years in the United States Senate that would do more to wreck our fiscal budget system.” I’d hate to see what the “talking heads” on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News would have said had those channels existed at the time.
The Big Roads is not just a reflection on how the highway system of the country changed, but how the country itself changed. The Interstates allowed the movement of goods and people in a short amount of time. They did so safely without the worry of cross-streets, traffic signals, stop signs, or rail crossings. These limited-access roadways all but eliminated head-on accidents in a uniform, monotonous drive devoid of local flavor. They also allowed for the growth of cities by pushing the suburbs farther out. This helped in the creation of satellite cities along beltways and bypasses. However, their paths into and through the cities would be a double-edged sword.
As I said in the beginning, I have other books on the Interstates and wondered how this book would differ. My answer would come in the final chapters of the book. The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 came into being just before the tumultuous 1960s. It was this period when the struggle for civil rights would reach its pinnacle. Urban Interstate routes were once seen as a way to rejuvenate the nation’s cities. At the same time, they were clearing out undesirable sections. The problem was that those undesirable sections contained people. They did not want to lose their homes just so suburbanites could get downtown quicker.
One such person was a man by the name of Joe Wiles. Mr. Wiles lived in the Rosemont section of Baltimore, which was under attack by Interstate 70. Mr. Wiles led a revolt against construction of I-70, which was both successful and unsuccessful. His revolt had been initially successful when its planned route through the City of Baltimore cancelled. However, it was also unsuccessful because discussions of the impending expressway doomed Rosemont to neglect. Ironically, it had become the type of area that would be favorable as an Interstate corridor.
Black neighborhoods seemed to be under attack across the country. From Nashville where Interstate 40 was planned to isolate about 100 blocks from the City, to here in Pennsylvania where Interstate 695 in Philadelphia, known as the Crosstown Expressway, was to sequester black neighborhoods from Center City. These seemed like classic examples of white men’s roads going through black men’s homes.
Those other books in the Library only talk about the positive aspects of the Interstates. They hardly discuss the turmoil they caused as they carved their way across the country. I admire that Mr. Swift mentioned the issues of the urban routes through Baltimore, for example. When I write about the history of a route, I, too, mention the negatives in addition to the positives. I am glad to see a publication which does the same.
In conclusion, I would recommend The Big Roads. It is a well-rounded look at how we have progressed from roads that were narrow, dirt paths to today’s wide, concrete expressways. It makes for a good read, especially stuck in traffic on one of the Interstates.
Today, the ribbon-cutting event for the latest section of Mon-Fayette Expressway occurred. Not only did I pick up several free bottles of water compliments of the Turnpike Commission, I picked up something I haven’t seen in years: a new 2011 official Turnpike map.
The PTC’s “belt-tightening” in recent years led to them not printing a map. It is evident by looking at this one, as it is much smaller than its 2004 ancestor. The reason for this change is in a note below the legend:
In addition, the map is not a PennDOT official. The Turnpike System is not highlighted in green, with a white-on-green Keystone shield denoting the route number. That was the standard since the 1980s. It appears with these two changes that the Turnpike map is returning to its ones from the 1960s and 1970s, which were printed by Rand McNally and General Drafting.
The main map of Pennsylvania features images of postcards of the Turnpike at the top of the map. A mention of the 70 years of the Turnpike is in the corner, the milestone celebrated the year before. One change I like is that the background of the border states are not pink or purple as they were on the 2004 map.
The back side of the map still includes information on E-ZPass and commercial trucking regulations. There is toll information but just like the first run of tickets this year, there is no fare schedule. There are strip maps for the system. However, the insets of cities which the Turnpike passes through are no longer. The following are changes since the 2004 edition:
Allegheny County/Washington County PA Turnpike 576 completed between Interstate 376 and US 22
Tom Petty said the waiting is the hardest part, and the Turnpike Commission can attest to that musical proclamation. The Mason-Dixon Link, which is the section from the state line to Exit 8 of the Mon-Fayette Expressway, was built in the late 1990s. The majority of it opened on March 1, 2000 to traffic. The exception was the piece from the West Virginia state line to Exit 2. That would remain unopened for a little over a decade. The reason due to construction of WV 43 taking longer than projected because of finance issues. Ironically that problem would be solved during the economic downturn of the latter part of the 2000s. ARRA, or economic stimulus, dollars were provided to the states for “shovel-ready” projects. Today, PA Turnpike 43 finally opens to West Virginia!
At last, the time finally came to let that “new road smell” loose and allow vehicles other than construction company ones to drive across the state line. Two ribbon-cutting ceremonies would be held: one south of the Mason-Dixon Line and one north.
The West Virginia Department of Transportation was up first at 10:30 AM. They brought their starting line-up of dignitaries including Senator Joe Manchin III and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. Below is footage of the West Virginia ceremony.
After the cutting of the ribbon, it was time to jump into the provided shuttle buses or your personal vehicle and head back north into Pennsylvania. Our ribbon-cutting event was not as long nor as well attended by officials as West Virginia’s.
The ceremonies marking the end of the 11 year wait for the Mon-Fayette Expressway’s “Mason-Dixon Link” to finally cross the Mason-Dixon Line. In short, PA Turnpike 43 finally opens to West Virginia!
The 1980s were a great time to be a kid. Sure, we didn’t have iPhones or XBoxes or Legos you can control by computer. We certainly had other electronic devices to keep us amused. I know, I know, we had the Atari 2600. However, I’m not referring to anything that required a connection to a TV. I’m talking about a toy where you could take control of an 18-wheeler and head eastbound and down, and around, and around.
Slot cars were a popular pastime in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Much like a model railroad, the vehicles were likewise powered by electricity from the tracks they rode upon. Just as a model railroad looks like the real-world version, similarly the slot cars use a plastic track that looks like a highway with small wires embedded into it to power the cars. As slot cars became increasingly popular, TYCO (not the international conglomerate whose CEO ran it into the ground in the early part of the 21st Century, but rather the Mattel division) introduced the HO-scale US 1 Electric Trucking line.
It was a twist on the typical slot car racetrack. Instead of two cars racing side-by-side, you “drove” vehicles in opposing directions on a track that looked like a road. Now I know what you are going to say, “I already experience the nightmare that is Roosevelt Boulevard, why would I want to when I am home?” The only similarity the little plastic roadway shared with its concrete and asphalt cousin was the designation.
Much like HO-scale train sets have different themes, so did US 1 for anyone to go eastbound and down.
Big City Trucking
Big Hauler Trucking
City Hauler Trucking
Cross Country Trucking
Long Haul Trucking
Each set had various “exits” for dump yards, terminals, and material loaders to name a few.
In addition, there was an Army Transport set, a nod to the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. Furthermore, those trucks hauled crates of ammunition and drums of, no doubt, some classified substances. At least a decade before the word “intermodal” came into existence, US 1 was already there with an airport and a combination rail and road set. Consequently, the latter was a little dangerous for US 1 drivers as the rail crossings were at grade without warning signals.
Rather than buying all the sets, it was possible to buy individual accessories like the auto loader from the Motor City set or the fire station from the Fire Alert set. Besides other trucks and various trailers, additional vehicles were available to customize your layout. It was possible to buy an Airport Taxi to travel to the airport or a fire engine to sit at the ready in your fire station.
One of the presents my parents gave me for Christmas in 1984 was the Highway Construction set. I remember walking into the Family Room that early morning and seeing what looked like a little roadway set up near the fireplace. It was a toy that entertained me as a young road enthusiast. It was a great and fun toy, and a shame that TYCO stopped manufacturing the line in 1986. To sum up, one of these days, I need to make an “archeological dig” in my parent’s basement to find all the pieces. Then I can take a trip down memory lane, eastbound and down, via a small slot truck.
Global Positioning Satellites, or GPS, has revolutionized the world. Now with the help of GPS-enabled devices, being lost is quickly becoming obsolete. Not only can people be found who were lost and possibly injured in the deepest wooded area, but drivers can find that hidden shortcut, and walkers and joggers can record their latest achievement.
One of the uses of GPS chips has been inclusion in cell phones over the past decade. Aside from being able to locate you in the event of an emergency when calling 911, it can help navigate unfamiliar territory. The advent of the smartphone has brought apps utilizing the GPS chip such as Google Maps and Foursquare.
“What is Foursquare?” you may ask. It is a social networking platform like Twitter and Facebook, but unlike those websites, Foursquare gets you away from your computer and out exploring. Users can “check in” to various locations from their cell phones, which earn them points and badges. Check in more times at one place, and you will become “Mayor” of that location which might earn you a perk.
Foursquare is about where Twitter was two years ago. It is on the cusp of being the “next big thing” in the world of Web 2.0. Just as organizations jumped on the Twitter bandwagon, they are jumping, or I should say checking in, on the Foursquare bandwagon. VisitPA (the Department of Tourism) has three badges, PA Retail Polka, PA 4 Score & 7, and PA Shooflyer, that users can earn by checking in at certain places around the Commonwealth.
Now Pennsylvania Highways has joined them, and Washington State Department of Transportation and Missouri Department of Transportation, with a Foursquare page. It will be used to give tips on highway-related check in points such as the Squirrel Hill Tunnel or one of the Turnpike interchanges, but only read them on the website or let a passenger read them to you. Perhaps a badge or two will be offered if Foursquare permits it in the future, but before you ask, there will not be a “Pothole Badge.”