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A Brief History of the Scranton-Carbondale Highway
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 line).

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, 1941.

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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