Highlights Similarity of Project to Important Federal Recovery Act-funded Work
HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Edward G. Rendell today recognized the 70th anniversary of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which opened to travelers on Oct. 1, 1940 and was America's first true superhighway.
The Governor said the Turnpike is a prime example of how public investments in infrastructure can create jobs, generate long-term economic growth and produce lasting benefits to the public – providing a direct parallel to today's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
"The Pennsylvania Turnpike is one of the most significant federal infrastructure investments in our nation's history. Without federal support, it's uncertain whether this innovative highway would ever have been built," Governor Rendell said. "The Turnpike became the model for – and eventually part of – our nation's Interstate highway system, another federal investment that sparked economic growth across the U.S. and revolutionized how Americans live, work and travel."
When the Turnpike opened in 1940, Pennsylvania was the nation's second-largest state and had 9.9 million residents. Although Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were among the nation's 10 largest cities, nearly a third of the state's population lived in hard-to-reach small towns and rural areas.
Cross-state travelers had mostly relied on U.S. Route 30, then a winding and steep two-lane highway that ran through the center of many towns. As car and truck traffic grew rapidly, it became increasingly clear to state officials that a four-lane highway was needed.
However, state funding was very scarce due to the Depression. To finance the $70 million toll road, the federal Reconstruction Finance Corporation purchased more than $40 million of the state's turnpike bonds and the federal Public Works Administration provided a $29 million grant.
"Although state officials had studied the idea of building a Turnpike for years, the project only became a reality after the federal government stepped forward with the necessary financing," the Governor said, noting that the original, 160-mile Turnpike would cost roughly $4 billion to build today.
The Turnpike was completed in just under two years by an army of more than 15,000 laborers working for businesses from 18 states. The highway linked Irwin, Westmoreland County, with Carlisle, Cumberland County, and featured seven tunnels and hundreds of bridges among its unprecedented engineering feats.
The highway brought new economic activity to towns along its route and further reinforced Pennsylvania's historic role in interstate commerce.
Just as federal funds helped build the Turnpike, the federal Recovery Act provided more than $1 billion in transportation infrastructure funding to help rebuild and repair 344 roads and bridges in Pennsylvania. Over the summer, more than 12,000 people were working because of these projects.
The Recovery Act is also helping 100 Pennsylvania communities to provide clean water and fix wastewater problems that will benefit more than 100,000 households and 1.1 million people. Approximately 1,500 people were working on these water infrastructure projects each month this summer.
"Just as federal funds made possible the construction of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I'm confident the strategic investments we're making through the Recovery Act will have a lasting and beneficial impact for Pennsylvania and its future residents," Governor Rendell added.
Media contact: Gary Tuma, 717-783-1116
SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor