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Social Network With Us

There is a lot of talk these days about the newest revolution on the Internet: Social Networking.  It started with this blog which I use to write not just about the roads across the Commonwealth, but musings about Pennsylvania.  However, other means of social networking have come along since blogs were all the rage.  I began to think how these new tools could benefit Pennsylvania Highways.  So today, on the ninth anniversary of when I purchased the pahighways.com domain, I created a couple new avenues of communication so you can social network with us by tweeting, liking, or watching Pennsylvania Highways.

Social network with us via Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

Twitter
The new cultural buzz-word.  Everyone seems to be Twittering, from Oprah to Senator John McCain.  I’ve seen other Twitter pages such as CNN’s and the Washington State Department of Transportation’s and thought how it could work for my site.  PennDOT and the PTC do have a system where people can receive text messages; however, it doesn’t have the immediacy of a Twitter post.  So using the WSDOT “template,” I created an account that will not only be used for updates to the site, but news items pertaining to the highway system.

http://twitter.com/pahighways

Facebook
Another phenomenon that seems to have come out of nowhere and taken the Internet by storm is Facebook.  It seems that everyone from 9 to 90 has a Facebook page, even people’s pets!  So I figured why not create a Pennsylvania Highways presence on this platform as well.  Posts will include news articles, website updates, announcements of upcoming road enthusiast meets, and other events.

http://www.facebook.com/pahighways

YouTube
No doubt you have spent time on this site. Probably watching a clip of a skateboarding bulldog while trying not to get caught by the boss.  YouTube is nothing new to the road enthusiast community as others have been recording their journeys and uploading them to this popular website.  So now Pennsylvania Highways has entered the fray. However, trying to find its niche will take a little longer than it took to set the page up. 

One issue is that PennDOT has saved me the work by going ahead and videotaping all state routes.  Another issue is that I need a newer video camera than my family’s circa 1991 Panasonic camcorder that is as big as a half loaf of bread, or just buy the A/V dongle from Hauppauge so I can record the video from it onto my computer’s hard drive.  Basically this idea is still on the burner.

http://www.youtube.com/pahighways

So if you feel like it, social network with us at the links above.

 
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It’s a Bouncing Baby Business Route

Congratulations Brownsville, you’re the proud parents of the newest auxiliary route in Pennsylvania! It is a bouncing baby business route for US 40.

With the new section of US 40 east of the borough finished, PennDOT decided to sign the former route as business route. The new designation keeps the US 40 markers on the former route from Redstone Way to PA 166. In addition, they return to the former route into Brownsville for the first time since 1970!

The numerous changes in this area are all due to the Mon-Fayette Expressway. Completing US 40 from the end of the expressway at Grindstone Road, where traffic has had to zig-zag since the Nixon administration, has always been a part of the expressway plan.

The section of US 40 expressway that exists was built in anticipation of it becoming part of the proposed route. The Turnpike Commission was considering including that piece even as it was planning the route through Fayette County. However, the PTC decided to route Turnpike 43 around Brownsville on an entirely new path.

Path of the newest US Business Route in Pennsylvania.
Path of the newest US Business Route in Pennsylvania

Make sure to send all gifts and cards to PennDOT District 12-0 to congratulate them on their new bouncing baby business route.

Business US 40 (Brownsville)

 
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Two Decades of Futility Come to An End

It seems the route change many were expecting around the New Year did not pan out.  I am speaking of course about the extension of Interstate 376. However, it did not mean that the official state road map lacked any changes after the opening of Interstate 99 in Centre County. Two decades of futility came to an end involving PA 82 in Berks County.

In December, PennDOT decided to truncate PA 82 at PA 23 in Elverson. The remainder of the route in Chester County became SR 4082.  In Berks County, the route became SR 2082 north to Birdsboro. An extension of the PA 345 designation replaced PA 82 from Birdsboro to its former northern terminus at US 422.

The northern end of the closed section of PA 82 in Birdsboro.
The northern end of the closed section of PA 82 in Birdsboro

A tropical depression inundated eastern Pennsylvania on the night of September 8, 1987. Consequently the flooding it caused destroyed several bridges that carried PA 82 across Hay Creek south of Birdsboro.  The Department of Transportation wanted to rebuild them but local opposition was strong from the residents who lived nearby. The local residents became accustom to the lack of traffic and wanted to keep it that way.  As a result, PA 345 became the de facto detour for north-south traffic between southern Berks County and Birdsboro.

The section that was devastated by flooding in 1987 which sits in a valley.
The section devastated by flooding and subsequently closed to traffic.

Now with all of the changes, it may be said that two decades of futility finally reached an end.

Two decades of futility focused around this gap in PA 82.
The gap in the PA 82 alignment south of Birdsboro

PennDOT Seals Fate of Route 82 – Reading Eagle

 

 

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Interstate 99 FINALLY Opens on Skytop

Those who live along, and those who have had to travel the narrow and dangerous US 220 through the Bald Eagle Valley, have another reason to give thanks this Thanksgiving.  As of 3 PM today, the Bud Shuster Highway is finally open to both northbound and southbound traffic across Bald Eagle Mountain. In other words, Interstate 99 finally opens on Skytop!

PennDOT had previously opened both directions from Bald Eagle to Port Matilda in December 2007. However, from that point north, it was only open northbound. Continuing clean up of pyritic rock unearthed during construction was the reason.  Southbound traffic was still using the old alignment.  So it is now official:  PennDOT has slain the acid rock dragon.

Routes of US 220 and US 322 as remediation of acid rock was winding down and Interstate 99 finally opens.
Routes of US 220 and US 322 as remediation of acid rock was winding down

Interstate 99 markers now line the new highway.  However, it is only one of two Interstates to have its designation signed into law. Due to this issue, legislation will need to pass in order to update the definition of the route.  As of this post, the bill still needs to pass. Therefore, it could be said it is currently illegal being designated as such. However, then again some people would already say it is that due to being west of Interstate 81. Nonetheless, Interstate 99 finally opens across Skytop Mountain.

 
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Route 30: The Movie

Banner for the "Route 30" movie.

The sections I drive could be classified as horror; however, comedy is the genre of John Putch’s independent movie Route 30.  The Chambersburg native filmed the movie along, what else, US 30 last October. Stars include Dana Delany of Desperate Housewives and Curtis Armstrong, best known to audiences as Herbert Viola on the 1980s show Moonlighting.  Fellow Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor board member Ed Gotwalt, owner of Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum, also has a part.

The movie consists of three difference stories told from three different points of view. First are the frustrations of Civil War tour guide Mandy, played by Nathalie Boltt, who obsesses over Jennie Wade. She is the only civilian killed at the Battle of Gettysburg. At the same time, her friend June, played by Christine Elise McCarthy, struggles to make extra money with an Internet porn scheme.

The second story focuses on a man, played by Kevin Rahm. He finds a Christian Scientist, played by Wil Love, to heal his back pain. He also attempts to explain the Big Foot who chased him down a mountainside.

The last story is of a writer, played by David DeLuise, who purchases a farmhouse in hopes that it will inspire him to write his novel. He ends up sidetracked by his Amish neighbor, played by Dana Delany, who smokes, drinks, swears, and watches his TV.

The premier of the movie Route 30 will be at the Majestic Theatre in Gettysburg on September 27, 2008 at 8 PM. A Q&A session with the cast and crew will follow.  Tickets to the screening are $16 per person. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor and Totem Pole Playhouse non-profit organizations.  You can purchase tickets at the Totem Pole Playhouse, Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum, Majestic Theatre, or at the movie’s website.

 
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Announcements News

2007 Official Road Map

Last month I received a copy of the 2007 official road map from the Department of Transportation’s Map Sales office. I was fortunate to be able to receive it just before the state shut down due to not being able to pass a budget.  Here are the changes since the 2006 edition:

Allegheny County/Washington County/Pittsburgh inset:
PA Turnpike 576 completed and open to traffic between US 22 and PA 60

PA Turnpike 576 completed on the 2007 official road map.

Berks County:
US 222 completed and now indicated with the red “expressway stripe” between PA 272 and Shillington

US 222 completed on the 2007 official road map.

Fayette County:
PA Turnpike 43 shown as under construction north of US 40 from US 119 to Brier Hill

PA Turnpike 43 under construction on the 2007 official road map.

Tioga County:
US 15 shown as under construction from PA 49 to the New York state line

US 15 under construction on the 2007 official road map.

Altoona inset:
Osgood Drive completed on the eastern side of I-99/US 220 between Exit 32 and Exit 33

Osgood Drive completed in Altoona on the 2007 official road map.

New Castle inset:
PA 65 extended from Business US 422 to end at PA 108/PA 168

PA 65 extended in New Castle on the 2007 official road map.

The map has the same dimensions as the previous year’s. However, this year’s cover is from America’s Most Livable City, Pittsburgh, with a man creating a mural in chalk on the West End overlook. You can view the 2007 official road map at Department of Transportation’s Graphical Information System page.

Cover of first version of the 2007 official road map.
 
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Get Your Kicks on Route 76…276…476

The first major snow and ice storm of the year has hit the Commonwealth. Highway travel across the state was hampered from its wrath. Due to the severity of the storm and its impact, the Turnpike Commission has suspended toll collection on its roadways. So you can get your kicks on route 76…276…476.

Snow cover across the state which led to get your kicks on route 76, 276, 476.
Snow cover across the state (NOAA)

Sections of Interstate 80 and Interstate 81 have had to close due to stranded vehicles. This has led to the inability for PennDOT plow trucks to clear the roadway. However, the worst back-up took place on Interstate 78 which stretched for about 50 miles from Interstate 81 in Lebanon County to PA 100 in Lehigh County. Numerous tractor-trailers began spinning out and jack-knifing trying to ascend a hill on the Interstate near Hamburg. What started out as snow had changed to ice which led to the poor conditions. Around 9 PM on Valentine’s Day, the National Guard began using humvees to deliver food, blankets, and baby supplies to those trapped in the gridlock.

PennDOT began to close down sections of those Interstates this morning to clear the vehicles as well as the snow and ice.  The problem was that motorists were still able to enter the highways at various points, which added to the existing problem.

With the amount of time it will take PennDOT crews to clean up the scenes and get the Interstates back in shape for traffic, they are asking cross-state traffic to use the Turnpike’s mainline and Northeast Extension as alternate routes.

Governor Rendell has declared a statewide Disaster Emergency. As part of that declaration, tolls are waived on the Turnpike. This is the first time since the first day of the collector strike in 2004. So if you are crossing the state, you can get your kicks on route 76…276…476.

Toll Waiving – Disaster Emergency – Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission

 
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2006 Official Road Map

It’s that time of the year when I receive in the mail a copy of the new 2006 official road map.  The following are the changes since the 2005 edition:

Erie County/Erie Inset
PA 290 now signed on the Bayfront Connector and East 12th Street between Interstate 90 and Interstate 79.

PA 290 signed through Erie on the 2006 official road map.

Jefferson County
PA 949 extended from its previous terminus in Corsica south to Summerville

PA 949 extended southward on the 2006 official road map.

Lehigh County/Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton Inset
PA 100 removed from Trexlertown Road through Trexlertown and signed on its bypass

PA 100 now bypasses Trexlertown on the 2006 official road map.

Mifflin County
Northern Lewistown Bypass completed with US 22 rerouted off of William Penn Highway, Fourth Street, and Juniata Street through the borough and Business US 22 signed to take its place

US 22 now bypasses Lewistown and Business US 22 now signed through the borough on the 2006 official road map.

Tioga County
US 15 (I-99) under construction from PA 287 to PA 49

US 15 under construction between PA 287 and PA 49 on the 2006 official road map.

Those are all of the changes to the 2006 official road map. It seems that practically every state agency has some advertisement on the back of the map now.  I am surprised that one of those advertisements was not for our new Gaming Control Board in order to get people ready to drop some money at one of our casinos. Whenever we get them.  I guess we just have to wait for that to come in a future edition.

Cover of 2006 official road map.
 
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The Savior of PennDOT Passes Away

He was more at home in the hallways of Penn State University than on the highways of Pennsylvania; however, Dr. Thomas D. Larson taught the government a lesson while becoming the savior of PennDOT.

Thomas Larson was born on September 28, 1928 in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania. He attended Penn State University where he earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in civil engineering. After Penn State, he attended Oklahoma State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to further his studies. He then entered the United States Navy and served in the Navy Civil Engineering Corps. At the end of his enlistment, he returned to Penn State to be a professor.

In 1968, Dr. Larson co-founded and was named the first director of the Pennsylvania Transportation and Safety Center at Penn State. In later years, it would bear his name. Two years later he would help create the new Department of Transportation.

In 1979, while at the center, Dr. Larson was tapped by Governor Thornburgh to be Secretary of Transportation.  At the time, scandal and fiscal irresponsibility was abundant at PennDOT.

He put PennDOT on a budgetary “diet” after inheriting $2.4 billion in debt from previous administrations, and placed the department on a “pay-as-you-go” basis. With slight increases, the gas tax rose five years in a row. Pennsylvania went from number 50 to number 1 in federal money it received. The debt racked up in the 1960s and 1970s would not have to burden another generation of tax-payers and vehicle owners.

“The department was a disaster when he took over,” said Bill Green, Dr. Larson’s press secretary for three years. “The place was broke. People were going to jail. Maintenance sheds were hiring halls for politicians. There was no sense of planning.”

Dr. Larson promised “a dollar’s worth of service for every dollar collected.” He delivered, and because so, he had bipartisan support in the Legislature and across the state.

He changed the way PennDOT repaired roads. Other than in winter emergencies, they no longer use the “dump and run” patch method, but instead crews square and dig out the hole, then drain, fill, roll, and seal, so the patch doesn’t disintegrate in a day. Dr. Larson ended the “election special” paving projects, with inch-thick asphalt that lasted until the next vote. He placed emphasis on drainage, sealing, and other maintenance procedures that are still used today.

His administration solved decades of indecision, controversy, and politics to finish projects such as building Interstates 279 and 579 and rebuilding the Penn-Lincoln Parkway East “from the ground up,” as he said.

As a commissioner of the Turnpike Commission, Dr. Larson advocated raising truck weights from 72,380 to 80,000 pounds gross vehicle weight to aid commerce, and pushing for construction of the Amos K. Hutchinson Bypass and James E. Ross Highway.

After his time as savior of PennDOT, he was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to head the Federal Highway Administration where he shaped the landmark Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991. In 1992, he returned to Centre County and a year later was named to the board of Michael Baker Corporation.

Dr. Larson passed away in State College on July 20 at the age of 77.  His family believes it was due to complications from a head injury suffered in 2004.

We at Pennsylvania Highways offer our deepest sympathies to his friends and family. We also offer our thanks to Dr. Larson for the work he did in the field of transportation. He truly was the savior of PennDOT.

Dr. Thomas Larson, the savior of PennDOT.

Getting Around: Tom Larson Led PennDOT Out of Politics, Potholes – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Thomas D. Larson Biography – Penn State College of Engineering

 
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Joining the LHHC Board of Directors

I have had an interest in roads for as long as I can remember.  Having grown up near US 30, and traveling it to visit family, it and the Lincoln Highway are special to me. So when the chance of joining the LHHC Board of Directors was offered, I accepted.

Map of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor (LHHC) of which I would be on the board of directors.
Length of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor

When the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor began in 1996, I was one of the first members.  Originally I was a “Friend.” Later became a “Friend for Life.”  I had adopted my first a Lincoln Highway sign in 2001, and three years later became the first to have adopted one in each of the LHHC counties.

In 1998, I put together a video on the Lincoln Highway for a video production class I was taking at the time. I met the Director of the LHHC, Olga Herbert, then and have known her since.

In recent years, the LHHC has expanded into fundraising ventures such as offering ballroom dancing classes.  I offered to drive my parents to one, in order to get a free meal afterwards and and take pictures during. There was an LHHC representative there that I have known since I was child.  He and my father worked together years ago, and known each other since.  When I came to pick up my parents, I ran into him and we began talking.  I mentioned the website and my involvement with the LHHC.

In April he contacted me about joining the LHHC Board of Directors.  I jumped at the chance and said it would be an honor.  The offer officially made at a July 13 meeting with him and Olga Herbert.  This evening was the first board meeting I attended, which took place in Everett. I hope that this is the start of a beautiful relationship.

 
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