Original Document
Original Document
Governor Gifford Pinchot, Excerpt on Rural Road System from his First Message to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, February 10, 1931.

Rural Road System

The amount of the 20,000 miles of township roads, which I have proposed shall be taken over by the Commonwealth for maintenance and improvement, is not an accidental figure. It results from the cooperation of the township supervisors and the Highway Department, and represents their combined choice of the more important roads in every township in Pennsylvania.

For lack of a logical plan of improvement, the township highways have grown into an irregular and disconnected system. That condition is thoroughly unsatisfactory: In place of it there should be substituted a planned and orderly system of inter-county and inter-township roads.

Those township roads have great importance. As I have said before, they offer short connections between State highways, give outlets to villages and communities, provide the farmer with roads to market and to school and church, make the doctor available at all times of year, bring trade to wholesale and retail merchants, facilitate the transit of manufactured articles, relieve congestion on the main highways, give access to the great out-door playgrounds of the State, allow hunters and fishermen to reach their objectives, and supply important inter-township and inter-county road connections.

In view of the unprecedented size and importance of the task of taking over at one time, and afterward maintaining and improving, so large a mileage of roads, I am emphatically of opinion that the responsibility of the Highway Department should not, at this time, be increased by adding to the 20,000 miles of township roads, or by including roads within the boundaries of boroughs, or otherwise augmenting a piece of work already great and difficult beyond all precedent.

The maintenance of these roads can be begun as soon as they are taken over, but it was never suggested that they could all be improved within four years. That would have been impossible in any case. It is put still farther beyond reach by the absorption of highway receipts up to June 1st next by the preceding Administration. Because of that absorption the improvement of the Rural Road System must unfortunately go on far more slowly than would otherwise have been the case.

This limitation of funds, furthermore, makes it necessary to follow the same plan that was followed by the Sproul Act of 1911, which created the Highway Department. It provided for taking over the maintenance and construction of certain roads as State Highways, but left in control of the counties and the townships certain bridges and drainage structures. This same basis was continued until funds were available for taking over these structures on the State Highway System proper as of June 1, 1930. I recommend the Sproul plan for the Rural Road System.

For the same reason of limitation of funds I believe that it will not be feasible to find money for State aid and township reward. In offset, however, it is conservatively estimated that the taking over of 20,000 miles of township roads on which this money would "ordinarily be spent will result in a net saving to the townships of ten million dollars a year. That is help of the most practical sort.

But the thousands of township reward applications on file in the Department of Highways which have not been acted upon for lack of funds evidently show that it is the desire of the local authorities to secure the improvement of the roads covered by these applications with the least possible delay. They also show that the townships are willing to participate in a reasonable share of the cost. This participation of the local authorities should, I am confident, be permitted by agreements entered into between them and the Highway Department whereby the roads covered by their applications can be improved more promptly than would otherwise be possible.

Credit: Courtesy of the Pennsylvania State Archives
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