A Brief History of the Scranton-Carbondale
By Richard N. Cochrane, P.E., Portfolio Manager,
PENNDOT, District 4-0
The Scranton-Carbondale Highway is a primary highway connecting
the two towns, in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. It is on
the western slopes of the Lackawanna Valley, above the lands
known for their high quality anthracite coal. The highway is
a free access road, varying between two and five lanes wide.
It is now lined with shops, malls, and restaurants, clustered
in several areas along the 15-mile-long road. The highway we
now know as the Scranton-Carbondale Highway had its origins
in 1927. At that time, the first section, known as LR 6, Section
1, was authorized for design and construction. That section
connected the southern end of Carbondale Township to Montdale
Road (now Rt. 247). By July 27, 1928, the "plans"
for that section of the new highway were completed. It is unlikely
that these were construction drawing, but more like abstract
plans, because it wasn't until 1937 that the "Scranton
Times" was extolling the virtues of the planned highway,
such as 2º curves, 7% grades, 800' sight distances, and
a 1½ mile straightaway. It also featured the first grade
separation intersection, at the Rt. 107 junction, where the
new highway crossed over Rt. 107 with connecting ramps. This
concept, common today, was rare at that time. What is known
for sure is that the first section was advertised for a bid
opening on November 19, 1937. Plans cost $2.50 and cross sections
cost $10. A firm only identified as "Putnam" was the
low bidder at $371,945. By January 22, 1938, construction was
well under way; Putnam was reported to be working three shifts.
Section one was opened on October 4, 1938. More than 90 people
were invited to attend the grand opening, and each invitee's
name was listed in the "Scranton Times." On November
19, 1938, a large slide nearly closed the road, restricting
travel to one narrow lane. It is interesting to note that the
newspapers of the day did not assess blame or even criticism,
even though the highway was only open a month.
In December 1939, Pennsylvania Secretary of Highways Lamont
Hughes announced the 1940 highway construction program. It included
the remaining Scranton-Carbondale Highway and a traffic circle
joining Keyser Avenue, Market Street, and the new highway. The
traffic circle, also a very modern feature for that time, was
believed to be the only one in Pennsylvania. Also in late 1939,
the Department put considerable pressure on the City of Scranton
to acquire right of way for the Scranton connection (from the
traffic circle to the Dickson City line). District Engineer
John L. Herber wrote three letters to the city strongly suggesting
that without action, the project would be lost indefinitely.
A headline on December 15, 1939, read "Speedy Action by
City on Proposed Highway is Urged." District Engineer Herber
said that quick action was needed by council to keep the Scranton
link on the 1940-41 construction program. Lackawanna County
contributed $12,500 of the estimated $50,000 cost for land acquisition.
Finally, on May 10, 1940, Scranton Mayor Fred Huester and council
approved an ordinance establishing the alignment of the new
highway (for the section from the circle to the Dickson City
On December 21, 1939, work began on the next section to the
east, LR 6, section 7. This section, between present day K-Mart
and Rte. 347, was built under the auspices of the Works Progress
Administration (WPA). This section was 2.4 miles long and included
a 225'-long stone arch near Scott Road. The WPA was not as speedy
as the Highway Department would have liked. By August 1940,
several articles appeared in the "Scranton Times"
about delays and the need for increased man power on the section
to speed the project. There was a large meeting at the Hotel
Casey, promoted by Joseph G. Casey, chairman of the Good Roads
Commission of the Lackawanna Motor Club, who had called the
conference "to speed up the highway." The WPA went
to double shifts, with 1,200 men working on the highway.
Meanwhile, on May 3, 1940, Collins & Maxwell, Inc., of
Easton, was the low bidder on the WPA section for paving, with
a bid of $24,280. By September 18, 1940, Collins & Maxwell
had completed paving of two of the three lanes for a distance
of 1.25 miles of their total of 2.4 miles. The "Scranton
Times"estimated that the WPA section was 60% complete at
that time. However, the WPA was not completed until July 17,
It is interesting to note the tremendous attention paid to
this and other events during the course of the project. The
press attention was greater than we usually have today, with
monthly articles chronicling the construction.
Meanwhile, on May 17, 1940, Sweeney Bros. of Scranton was the
apparent low bidder on LR 6, section 12, the final section,
with a bid of $265,456 for the 0.94 mile connector from Keyser
and Main Avenues and for the traffic circle. According to the
"Scranton Times," the traffic circle was said to be
the first in the state.
Although the Scranton connector was already bid, throughout
June and July Scranton City Council made several field visits
to the site to resolve right-of-way claims with property owners.
Lackawanna County contributed $12,500 of the estimated $50,000
in right-of-way costs to buy the needed land for the highway.
Finally, on July 25, 1941, more than three years after construction
began, the highway was opened to traffic. The total cost was
about $1,500,000. A luncheon at the Hotel Casey preceded the
opening. Worthington Scranton (president of the Lackawanna Motor
Club), a Lackawanna County commissioner, and Scranton's mayor
Fred J. Huester cut the ribbon.
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