When the weather turns warm in Pennsylvania, it is a time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. We have an abundance of state parks and historic sites. Therefore, there is plenty to see and do in the Keystone State. One such activity that can shake off “cabin fever” is a good, old-fashioned car show. Since this year marks the Pennsylvania Turnpike 75th birthday of the original section of Turnpike from Irwin to Carlisle opening, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission held a car show at the Sideling Hill Service Plaza today.
Others had been held for other birthday milestone years, so this is not the first time. However, this was the first one with myself and my family in attendance. We had a vehicle worthy of displaying this time.
Attendees who were displaying their vehicles could either come via the Turnpike itself for free thanks to Sunoco picking up the tab, or other routes. We decided on the latter. I will say it was a little strange to enter a service plaza through a gate instead of a ramp.
While the show took place, HMS Host, managers of the service plazas, sold hot dogs and Coca-Cola products for the price of what they cost in 1940. The Turnpike Commission sold 75th Anniversary memorabilia, including a hard-cover picture book detailing the history of the highway. I even had a chance to meet a fan of the site since its America Online days, Ron Breisch.
Participants had chances to win items from the Turnpike Commission answering trivia questions, as well as in a raffle. I didn’t think it would be too sporting if the Webmaster of Pennsylvania Highways answered each question. Therefore, I just answered one of the trivia questions and won a PTC t-shirt. In addition, I won a model of an old-fashioned Coca-Cola delivery truck in the raffle. Above all, participants received a swag bag of goodies, which are pictured below.
It was a beautiful day and a beautiful drive to and from the plaza for the Pennsylvania Turnpike 75th Birthday Car Show. The car show was a nice event to celebrate the Turnpike’s diamond anniversary; however, it was also a communal event that brought out people from across the state and even the country.
After hearing that there was a new state highway map, I thought I would attempt to find one myself. Sure enough, I found the sixth official map in a row to be printed. That is something which hasn’t happened in nearly 40 years. I snagged a copy of the 2014 official road map at the Welcome Center on Interstate 70 in Warfordsburg today.
Unlike in previous years, there were no changes of note since the 2013 version. It is not as if nothing has happened or is currently happening in the state. One blatantly obvious omission is in Somerset County. A major project that has already begun there is construction of the “missing link” of US 219 expressway between Meyersdale and Somerset. Work began on February 15, 2013; however, it is missing on this year’s map. It is odd because this is a project that has been championed for years by local officials. One politician in particular who pushed for the road was the late US Representative John Murtha.
It has the same dimensions as the previous year’s. However, the cover of the 2014 official road map features a picture of a 10-string Harp Guitar made by C. F. Martin & Company, Inc. of Nazareth.
Pictures seem to be social media’s “bread and butter” these days. No more just telling people about what you are seeing or what your are experiencing, but now you can snap a picture with your smartphone and show your followers. One service has been built strictly to do just that, and even caught the attention of one of the “big boys” of social networking when Facebook purchased Instagram.
On Instagram, users can not only share pictures but also small short video clips. With the application of various filters, the images can even look like old Polaroid instant pictures. A service such as this seems like a perfect fit for Pennsylvania Highways, where sharing pictures of roads, signs, traffic signals, etc. has been a part of our site for years. So if you like checking out interesting pictures of highway infrastructure, head on over to our page, but don’t shake your monitor like a Polaroid picture.
I stopped into my local driver’s license center to see if they had the new road maps. Sure enough, they did not disappoint and in fact did have copies of the 2013 official road map. No idea why they decided to print another in succession, even so, here are the changes since last year.
Bucks County/Montgomery County US 202 parkway completed from PA 463 to PA 611
Fayette County/Washington County PA Turnpike 43 completed from Exit 22 to Exit 30
The E-ZPass-only slip ramps on the Pennsylvania Turnpike are now white-on-purple circles. Previous editions up to this point used the standard white-on-red circles. Those are the same that denote interchanges on the Turnpike System. Purple is the color in the federal Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices now used to denote electronic toll facilities. These interchanges are strictly all-electronic. In other words, they do not have staffed toll booths like the other ones on the original Turnpike.
Those are all the changes to the 2013 official road map. It has the same dimensions as the previous year’s. However, this year’s cover features a picture of the Gettysburg Battlefield.
Today, I stopped by my local DMV to get my driver’s license renewed. It was an uneventful process. That probably had to do with the fact that there had been an icing event that morning and no one was out traveling as they were usually after Christmas. As I waited for the new one to finish laminating, I happen to notice down at the other end of the counter, stacks of state maps. So, I picked up a copy of the 2012 official road map. I guess better late than never that I was able to secure a copy right under the wire. No idea why the Department of Transportation and VisitPA decided to print another in succession, since there is only one change.
Montgomery County US 202 Parkway shown as completed from US 202 to PA 463
The parkway is a “consolation prize” for the lack of a full expressway. Planning for, which took place in the 1960s and 1970s as the Piedmont Expressway. Rather than build an expressway, the new roadway is and will be an at-grade facility with separated trails for biking and walking along the route. This was the more favorable plan for the communities along the new US 202 alignment.
That is the only change to the 2012 official road map. It has the same dimensions as the previous year’s map. However, this year’s cover features a picture of a man kayaking on the north branch of the Susquehanna Water Trail.
You might have heard of the website Pinterest, or at the very least, seen “Pin It” icons on sites you have visited. It is another social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, but not about sharing statuses or links to Icanhascheezburger, but sharing pictures. People use Pinterest to plan weddings, pick out a place to visit for their next vacation, and design a new living room by posting pictures they find to “boards” on their page.
Businesses are also joining in on the fun of sharing. The Department of Tourism, VisitPA, has a page that shares pictures from around the state of points of interest and scenes of natures. Today, Pennsylvania Highways has joined to share pictures relating to the highway system of the Commonwealth as well things relating to highway travel. The best part is, there is nothing sharp involved.
One of the things I like about working on this website is showing and explaining how the highway system of Pennsylvania has evolved over the years. Now I am taking the show on the road…literally.
So on March 11, I am taking this website and crunching it down to an hour-long presentation entitled Pennsylvania’s Roadways: From the Lincoln to Eisenhower. It will be Sunday, March 11 beginning at 2 PM at the Lincoln Highway Experience, the headquarters for the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, at 3435 Route 30 East (a.k.a. the Lincoln Highway) in Latrobe. Refreshments will be provided.
Due to limited seating in the auditorium, advanced reservations are required which can be made through the LHHC’s website or by calling 724-879-4241. Admission is $10/person for non-LHHC members and $7/person for Friends of the Lincoln Highway.
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.