Categories
News

Pay Now or Pay Later

Legislators are now studying whether to allow private investment in the highway system due to funding gaps at PennDOT.  Debates at the Transportation Funding and Reform Commission hearings that have taken place around the state on the idea. It is a veritable pay now or pay later scenario playing out.

Even the “father” of Interstate 99, former US Representative Bud Shuster, chimed in by saying “billions and billions of dollars can be raised by public-private partnerships” on transportation projects.  One of which he cited is the Mon-Fayette Expressway which is $2 billion short of funding.

The commission is due to issue a report on November 15 recommending new taxes or increases in existing ones. Ones targeted for increases are the 6% sales tax, 31.5¢/gallon gasoline tax, or the $36/year vehicle registration fee.  The new revenue would go towards improving highways and the 47% structurally deficient bridges across the Commonwealth. Money would also go towards PAT in Pittsburgh and SEPTA in Philadelphia.

I am for the private investment if it means improving the highway system, but not for the taxes.  The base state sales tax has been 6% since the early 1970s, and doesn’t cover food nor clothing! The gasoline tax is already one of the highest in the country. Even though gas prices are low as of this blog entry, it doesn’t mean prices will continue to stay low.  The vehicle registration fee should be on a scale depending on the weight of the vehicle. It is similar to how the Turnpike Commission calculates tolls.  The more your vehicle weighs, the more your registration. That seems only fair.  An SUV puts a greater strain on the highways, due to its weight, than a motorcycle.

More toll plazas like the Hempfield Toll Plaza on PA Turnpike 66 could appear under a pay now or pay later scenario.
More toll plazas could appear under a pay now or pay later scenario

Maybe the judges who repealed the legislature’s pay raise, but upheld their own pay raise, will donate a portion back to PennDOT so we don’t have to worry.  Although, without improvements, they’ll be earning those raises hearing lawsuits from families of those who died in bridge collapses.

Lawmakers Study Private Investment For Roads – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 
Categories
Announcements News

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.
 
Categories
Events News

National Road Enthusiast Meet (Day 3)

The final day of the first National Road Enthusiast Meet featured differing modes of transportation.  We started by taking PA 60 into the city for a cruise on the Gateway Clipper to see some of the numerous bridges as well as some of the sights along the Allegheny River.  Afterwards, we had lunch at the Red Star Tavern in Station Square. It is here where I had announced a mere 364 days earlier of my intention to hold a National meet.

Back on land we turned back to the west to take in PA Turnpike 576 at the US 30 interchange.  Once on the expressway right-of-way itself, I heard what sounded like a car traveling at a quick pace.  Turning around as we headed northbound, I didn’t see anything until I looked over the median mound that is common-place on Turnpike Commission extensions only to see the “Christmas Tree” light bar of a State Police cruiser.  He caught up to us and only said to turn around; however, I was only yards away from getting Adam Prince the first PA Turnpike 576 northern terminus picture.  Considering the alternative, we were very fortunate.  Sheesh, even on foot, I get pulled over by the Pennsylvania State Police!

PA Turnpike 576 construction was one of the stops on Day 3 of the National Road Enthusiast Meet.
PA Turnpike 576 at Exit 2 facing westbound

The final event of the three day meet was to take in a ball game at the site of the 77th All Star Game at PNC Park.  Surprisingly the Pirates managed to win 3-2 over the St. Louis Cardinals, while the Steelers playing NFL’s version on the same day lost.

After the game, we returned to the Comfort Inn on Steubenville Pike where I thanked all for attending and being part of the first National Road Enthusiast Meet.  Then we called it a night and went on our respective ways.

States represented/number attended:
California – 1
Georgia – 1
Kentucky – 1
Maryland – 1
Michigan – 2
New York – 2
Pennsylvania – 2
Tennessee – 2
Virginia – 1
West Virginia – 1

 
Categories
Events News

National Road Enthusiast Meet (Day 2)

Today was the second day of the first National Road Enthusiast Meet.  We began the day at Primanti Brothers on PA 60/Steubenville Pike in Robinson Township.  Everyone seemed to enjoy this slice of Pittsburgh. I highly recommend stopping to have a Primanti’s sandwich…or a Roethlis-burger at Peppi’s. That is unless of course you’re a Cleveland Browns fan.

After that we jumped in our vehicles and traveled down PA 60 to Crafton to see the Industrial Highway.  It is the remnant of one of the many cancelled highways in the Pittsburgh area.  It now serves as an access road for businesses along Chartiers Creek.

Following that stop we headed back north on PA 60 to Interstate 79 south. The first official stop was to visit the Pittsburgh Regional Traffic Management Center. It is located at the PennDOT District 11-0 office in Bridgeville.  On the way, we saw some of the Interstate 79 reconstruction taking place south of the Parkway West interchange.

Dominic Munizza of PennDOT gave us a tour of the center, and showed us features of the Intelligent Transportation System, or ITS,  network.  He gave demonstrations of the Variable Message Sign (VMS) boards, as well as the Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) system. We also got a demonstration of the cameras that line the expressways.  In fact, we happened to arrive at the TMC just after legendary Pittsburgh Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope was involved in an accident at the Banksville Road interchange.

A tour of the Pittsburgh Regional Traffic Management Center was the focus of Day Two of the National Road Enthusiast Meet.

The group met for dinner at a restaurant with a road theme:  Quaker Steak & Lube. We ate at the Point at North Fayette location. Afterwards we took to our vehicles and headed into the city to check out the view from Mount Washington. It is the hill that overlooks the “Golden Triangle.”

That marked day two of the first National Road Enthusiast Meet.

 
Categories
Events News

National Road Enthusiast Meet (Day 1)

Pennsylvania has been the site of many firsts such as the first computer (Philadelphia) and first commercial radio station (Pittsburgh). It was also the site of the first road enthusiast meet (Greensburg).  So what a better place to hold the first National Road Enthusiast Meet than where it all began.

The first day was a journey back in time with some aspects of the present.  Myself and four attendees traveled the Lincoln Highway from Robinson to Somerset County.  Brian Butko, author of several books on the Lincoln Highway and other road-related products, joined us for part of the trip.

We began our trip by taking PA 60 from the US 22/US 30 cloverleaf in Robinson Township into Pittsburgh, then heading south on PA 837 to the Fort Pitt Bridge. Once across the bridge, we exited at the Boulevard of the Allies and followed that back to the Parkway East.  Taking the US 30 exit, we followed it to Greensburg where we then traveled on Toll Gate Road to enter the city as those who traveled then PA 1 did many times.  On the eastern side of the city, we followed old segments near Westmoreland Mall, Hyundai of Greensburg, and a long section known locally as Frye Farm Road.

South of Latrobe, we turned onto PA 981 south to access the old alignment. We spotted a rare Lincoln Highway marker located on the front lawn of a home in Youngstown. Shortly after, the caravan passed Latrobe Country Club whose proprietor is professional golfer Arnold Palmer. Our cruise continue on the old alignment through the borough and to where it joins the current eastbound lanes.

We stopped at the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor office in Ligonier where a few picked up some Lincoln Highway merchandise.  Continuing eastward on US 30 we stopped at the Flight 93 Memorial and the site of the Quecreek Mine Accident.

Flight 93 Memorial was one of the stops on day one of the first National Road Enthusiast Meet.
The flag is located at the point where United Airlines 93 impacted the ground

I offered to show everyone the Sipesville Fire Hall, where the families waited for word of their trapped relatives.  While we were waiting, a member of the Sipesville VFD stopped and asked us if we wanted to see inside.  It was quite a change from when I was an extra back in 2002 in The Pennsylvania Miners’ Story.  Afterwards we were privalged to be offered a tour of the new hall which was built as a replacement. Plans were to move the original building to the Quecreek site as part of a display.  However, the building can not make the journey in one piece, but rather would have to be cut into four sections. Unfortunately, the choice will probably be to demolish the structure instead.

That marked day one of the first National Road Enthusiast Meet.

 

 

Categories
Announcements News

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

 
Categories
Announcements News

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.

 
Categories
Events News

Happy Birthday Interstate System!

Today I had the honor to be a part of Pennsylvania’s commemoration of the signage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which took place at the Eisenhower National Historic Site in Gettysburg. It was a birthday celebration for the Interstate System. It’s so hard to shop for a highway!

Dignitaries, media, and those who were a part of the re-enactment of the 1919 Army convoy, gathered at the Eisenhower farm. As a result, the original convoy showed a young kid by the name of Eisenhower the necessity of good transportation. Not to mention his time in World War II.

The bus ride from Gettysburg Middle School was a nice jaunt through the historic borough.  I sat next to a gentleman from Omaha, Nebraska who was representing Werner Enterprising trucking.  He gave me a foam stress reliever in the shape of the familiar Werner 18-wheeler.  He mentioned that he had never visited anything in Pennsylvania, but had driven through the state many times. Not surprising considering there are only two routes from New England to the rest of the country that bypass the state.

Once at the farm, we toured the main house where the Eisenhowers had entertained dignitaries such as Winston Churchill and Nikita Khrushchev.  It is a very beautiful and sprawling holding. After everyone had finished taking the tour, it was time for the press conference.

First to speak was Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation, Allen Biehler.  After him were Joe Brimmeir, CEO of the Turnpike Commission, J. Richard Capka from the Federal Highway Administration, and Ted Leonard from the Pennsylvania AAA Federation.

PennDOT Secretary Allen Biehler takes the podium at the Interstate 50th ceremony in Gettysburg.
PennDOT Secretary Allen Biehler takes the podium

After the press conference, I introduced myself to Rich Kirkpatrick, PennDOT’s Press Secretary and who invited me to the event.  He praised the work I have done on the website and said it is a great resource. Specifically, he commended my work on the histories of the highways.  While we were talking, Secretary Biehler came over to speak with Mr. Kirkpatrick.  At that point, I introduced myself and Mr. Kirkpatrick remarked, “This is the guy who does that website.”  He gave me an Interstate 50th pin which is similar to the image below.

Happy 50th Birthday Interstate System

While waiting for our bus back to the school, I overheard a man talking about the weather.  I introduced myself and he did likewise. He mentioned he was a representative from the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors, which by the way own pahighways.org.  I had discovered they owned the .org of my domain once. So, I mentioned that I own the .com. He said, “We know. We tried for the .com only to find you owned it.” Hey, you snooze you lose.

Back at the school we had a lovely catered meal. I had the honor to sit at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.  While standing in line for lunch, I struck up a conversation with the Director of ODOT, Gary Ridley.  I told him that I liked the new Oklahoma route marker, and we began discussing the states that used their outlines for their markers. I also mentioned having been to Oklahoma while storm chasing, and had talked to Gary England of KWTV-TV while researching a paper in college.  Mr. Ridley said that Gary helps them with winter forecasts to determine where and when ODOT crews will be needed.  The others at the table asked me what organization I was a member.  I said, “I do a website called Pennsylvania Highways,” while Mr. Kirkpatrick happened to be walking behind me. He overheard and said, “It is a great website and resource.”

All in all, I enjoyed the event. I was honored that PennDOT even considered inviting me.  Many thanks to Rich Kirkpatrick and the PennDOT Press Office. It was indeed a happy birthday for the Interstate System.  You know what, it doesn’t look a day over 49! In conclusion, it is ironic to think that President Eisenhower’s farm can not be accessed directly via any Interstate.

Pennsylvania Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Interstate System – PennDOT

 
Categories
News

Eliminating the Gasoline Tax (Temporarily)

A state senator from Monroeville has proposed eliminating the 31.2¢/gallon gasoline tax to give drivers a break at the pump.  On the surface that looks like a good idea.  The theory is that loosing that 31¢ would drop the average price to $2.65, but what looks good on paper, doesn’t always translate in reality.

The gasoline tax is what keeps our highways and byways from falling apart.  You can make your own jokes here, I’ll wait.

Done?  OK.  PennDOT already has their back against a wall with loosing Federal highway money to mass transit across the state.  Numerous projects have been shelved, such as the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway which will carry US 15 around Shamokin Dam, while others have been put on the “chopping block” outright due to this funding situation. Eliminating the gasoline tax would be yet another blow to an already weakened budget.

Prices wouldn’t necessarily go down as a result. The oil companies would pocket that extra money for themselves more than likely.

The problems are speculation and the oil companies.  We are at a point where a butterfly sneezes on a pipeline, and the price skyrockets but afterwards it slowly falls.  Why?  It’s not as if God handed Moses a third tablet with oil prices up on the mount.  It seems to me that gasoline is the only thing in this world that appreciates with value, which makes me want to siphon my tank and sell it back to the station at the higher rate. I want to get in on this deal too.

The oil companies are pocketing way too much.  I’m an ExxonMobil stockholder, and before you call me “money bags,” I’ll let you in on something.  The dividend per stock share is only 27¢, but the way they’ve been raking in money hand over fist, I and all other stockholders should be retired and living the good life.

Eliminating the gas tax would affect gasoline and diesel sales.

PennDOT: Suspending Gas Tax Would Delay Road Projects Without Helping Drivers – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 
Categories
Events News

PA Turnpike 43 Groundbreaking Ceremony

I attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the Uniontown to Brownsville section of PA Turnpike 43/Mon-Fayette Expressway today.  As a result, its exit guide and Mon-Fayette Expressway/Southern Beltway Progress Map have both been updated.  Pictures of the ceremony are on the PA Turnpike 43 page.

This was the first groundbreaking I have attended, and it was basically what I expected. Local and state officials there to give speeches on how each had a hand in helping to bring the Mon-Fayette Expressway to fruition.  Then there was the ceremonial first spade toss of dirt to signal the start of construction followed by a catered lunch for all who attended that included Stromboli, hot wings, BBQ wings, vegetables, cake, and cookies.  I gave it four stars out of five.

One of the speakers was Senator J. Barry Stout, who is one of many state officials who spearheaded the project.  The senator also happens to be the Chairman of the State Transportation Committee.  After the ceremony I introduced myself and asked if I could interview him.  He gave me his business card and told me to call his office sometime.

Once the speeches from the various state and local officials were over, it was time to get down to business. We left the tent where we had lunch and headed out to the spot where the ceremony would take place.

Groundbreaking ceremony on April 1, 2006 in Uniontown for the section of PA Turnpike 43 between US 119 and Brownsville.
PA Turnpike 43 groundbreaking ceremony outside of Uniontown

Mon/Fayette Expressway – Uniontown to Brownsville Area – Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission

 
Advertisements