[Floodgap Roadgap presents the Summer of 6]

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19 July 2006: Warren, PA to Scranton, PA
 
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21 July 2006: Hartford, CT to New Bedford, MA
 

20 July 2006: Scranton, PA to Hartford, CT

This portion of the trip scrambles through the rest of Pennsylvania and through the short piece of US 6 in New York into Connecticut. US 6 in New York is devilish -- it has beautiful sights and vistas, and nowhere to pull over and photograph them. On top of that, it was raining most of the day off and on which meant too much of this was done "under glass."

So, we continue with the images from the 15th, starting with odometer 97945.

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Okay, I lied. I did manage to get a little of the old Roosevelt Hwy alignment that is now signed as Business US 6 between I-81 and through Carbondale, PA. I have not tried to photograph it exhaustively as time was short.

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Instead, I went on the Governor Robert P. Casey Highway, which is a true freeway and acts as a full multi-mile bypass around it with grade-separated interchanges and six exits ("exit 7" is just the turnoff where the bypass rejoins). Originally the Lackawanna Valley Industrial Hwy, it is a relatively recent upgrade with its groundbreaking in 1994 and full completion in 1999, named for the Pennsylvania governor at that time. Note how it has regular MUTCD green mileposts, which you can compare with the Pennsylvania postmile below it. Also note the INVASION OF CLEARVIEW!

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The rain was really unpredictable that day, and just when you thought things were clearing up, another squall rolled along.

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A section of US 6, not marked on any of my maps but signed in the field, long since bypassed. There are a lot of these.

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As we enter into Pike county, US 6 passes by Lake Wallenpaupack, an artificial reservoir created in 1926-7 by the Pennsylvania Power and Light Company as a hydroelectric source. Originally there was just a stream, named by the Leni-Lenape Indians as "the stream of swift and slow water" probably referring to its variable meanders and rushes; at one time, William Penn himself owned the land. Circa 1923, PPL started buying up local right-of-way to construct a dam on the stream and started building it in 1924. This increased their generating capacity by nearly twenty-five percent when they completed it, and the lake became the largest man-made body of water in the entire state as the stream backed up into the valley. Today it is a very popular recreation park and fishing spot.

Pike county is named for explorer Zebulon Pike (1779-1813), the same Pike in Pikes Peak, Colorado. Although historically second fiddle to Louis and Clark's expedition, his Pike expedition was critically important to the mapping of the southern portion of the Louisiana Purchase. He died in combat in the War of 1812 as a retreating British garrison detonated their ammo store and blew rock into the air, a chunk of which struck and killed him. Created from Wayne county in 1814, it has a population of 46,302 [2000].

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Milford, the county seat of Pike county, with a population of 1,104 [2000]. The surrounding township was created in 1832, but was laid out far earlier by John Biddis in 1796, and settled as early as 1733 by Tom Quick. Where the name comes from is unclear but the most plausible explanation is that it was named for Milford Haven, where Biddis' father William was born in Wales. The borough here was incorporated in 1874.

Milford is possibly, or possibly not, the terminus of US 206, US 6's single only extant spur. (The other spur, US 106, has been since decommissioned but survives to touch US 6 as modern PA 706 back in Wyalusing -- this will appear in the full photoessay.) Near as Dale "US Highway Ends" Sanderson can tell, sometime in the past US 206 and US 209 were co-signed together up to this point in downtown Milford so that US 206 would legitimately touch US 6 and be a true child route.

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Nowadays most prevailing signage no longer proves this to be the case and US 206 comes off just a half mile or so outside of town to cross the Delaware River into New Jersey, meaning US 6 and US 206 no longer touch anymore. However, there are still old button copy signs up at this junction that claim US 206 and US 209 to be cosigned up into Milford; sadly, this is at odds with all current maps and my NAVTEQ plots, and appears to only be historical.

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From Milford US 6 and US 209 run together alongside I-84 to cross into New York state and Port Jervis. I-84 now figures large into our equation, a strange split Interstate with a western half (as seen in US 395 Part 23) and this eastern half. This is as much of a state line sign as we get on this alignment (the bigger brag is obviously saved for the freeway).

Port Jervis is named for Delaware and Hudson Canal Chief Engineer John B. Jervis, who created a critical railroad link over the Moosic Mountains to allow coal to be transported through the D&H Canals. The original plan was to make the transport fully through water, but the 1,000-plus foot grade would have required an awesome number of locks, plus water to fill them, which was scant. Jervis' brainwave was designing a so-called "gravity railroad" which used a series of inclined planes and steam engines to pull the coal cars up and over. Completed in 1829, the Carbondale-to-Honesdale, PA grade was expanded to transport a great deal more than coal, including wood, stone, brick and cement. His other great invention was the "Jervis" swivel truck, a clever device for steam locomotives enabling them to negotiate tight mountain turns and facilitating the construction of track in areas otherwise quite inhospitable to railroad traffic.

Jervis then went on to become the Chief Engineer of the famous Erie Canal, staying in a small New York town for two years to supervise it. The town, impressed by his abilities, named itself after him, and in return Jervis (it is said) requested that the Erie Railroad be routed along it. The modern town has 8,860 [2000].

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New York likes their suffixed routes. Part of US 6 picks up NY 17M, which appears to be at least partially an old alignment of US 6, and then both US 6/NY 17M jump onto NY 17, which is a (very very busy) freeway through the southern portion of the state. NY 17M then comes off and at least for part of the way runs parallel to the freeway in a manner that appears to approximate the old route.

Since we're mentioning New York suffixes, there is another 6N, NY 6N (near Mahopac). This is probably also a bypassed old alignment.

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US 6 then splits from NY 17 just before the Thruway and turns into a mini-Super 2 to enter Harriman State Park, named for railroad magnate Edward Henry Harriman and his wife Mary Averell Harriman. After his death in 1909, Mary Harriman informed New York Governor Charles Evans Hughes that she would donate 10,000 acres of land and $1 million to form a park on the site if the state would match with $2.5 million and shelve their plans for a prison on nearby Bear Mountain. Hughes agreed and the land and funds were transferred in 1910. Since expanded to 46,613 acres, Harriman State Park is the second largest in the state with 31 lakes and over 200 miles of hiking trails.

As part of its routing through Harriman State Park, US 6 is co-routed with the Palisades Interstate Parkway (which appears to be unsigned NY 987C in this section based on NYDOT postmiles on the alignment). Also designated unsigned NY 445 in other regions, the PIP is a 42-mile expressway/freeway planned in 1940 with construction performed between 1947 and 1958 at a cost of $47 million to provide access to the seventeen state parks and five historic sites along its service region. A true parkway, most of the PIP is through wooded park country like this charming bridge (just past exit 19). As with most New York parkways, commercial traffic is banned and must take a bypass route along NY 293 to US 9W to avoid this section of US 6.

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The PIP then ends at a roundabout with US 202 and US 9W, and US 202 and US 6 cross over the tremendous EB-tolled Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River. Opened in 1924, the Bear Mountain was the longest suspension bridge in the world at its inauguration with a main span of 1,632', max clearance of 135' and a total length of 2,322'. Plans for a bridge in this region dated back as far as 1868 but none got off the ground until the opening of the popular Bear Mountain State Park nearby in 1916. Slow ferries were the only method of transportation then and complaints grew voluminous enough to introduce a bill in 1922 that authorized a private entity to build and maintain a crossing of sufficient size for 30 years and then relinquish it to the state. The Bear Mountain Hudson Bridge Company used then-revolutionary steel construction techniques and 7,377 miles of steel wire to generate the twin massive 18-inch-diametre cables which can be seen disappearing into the anchorages in the picture above. These, the east anchorages, tunnel 90 feet into the rock (the west anchorages over 110'), connecting the twin 20' x 50' concrete piers on which the 351' steel towers stand. The entire construction, including renovation of approach roads, cost $4.5 million but took only two years and was rightfully hailed as a fabulous engineering achievement. Unfortunately, it lost its crown as the longest suspension span to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia only two years later in 1926 and the bridge went on to become a colossal financial failure, operating at a loss for 13 of its 16 years until the Company gave up and sold out to the state in 1940.

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Overlooking the Hudson River valley on this rainy day. The Hudson River is named for English explorer Henry Hudson who explored it in 1609 for the Dutch. Running 279 miles with an average discharge of greater than 21,000 cubic feet per second at Lower New York Bay, the Hudson was a much longer river in the distant past; after the retreat of the North American Ice Age ca. 10,000 BC, the rising sea levels drowned the ancient mouth of the river and its coastal plain under the Atlantic Ocean. A cultural and political boundary marker, the Hudson is a very important part of New York life today.

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US 6 and US 202 co-route with NY 35 into nearby Peekskill. Peekskill is, of course, the setting of The Facts of Life, but has a few other famous things associated with it, including being the birthplace of current NY Governor George Pataki, actors Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens) and Mel Gibson, and basketball star Elton Brand. "Peek" comes from Dutchman Jan Peeck, the first European to enter the area in 1650, after whom the Dutch and English gave the region the name 'Jan Peecks Kil' ("Jan Peeck's Creek"). It became the site of the Revolutionary War Battle of Peekskill in 1777 and was the site of regional military command until its transfer to nearby West Point in 1778; incorporated as a village in 1816, the modern city was founded in 1940. It has 22,441 residents today [2000].

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However, you can run over the smart ones.

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Eventually US 6 and US 202 bounce into an expressway alignment and leave the state (its routing in New York is fairly short) into Connecticut and Danbury town.

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Remember that I said I-84 would be figuring into our equation a fair bit, and for much of its routing in Connecticut, it does. As we pass through Danbury (probably named for Danbury in Essex, England; population 78,263 [2004 est.]), we see this advance signage for I-84 and US 7. (US 6 and US 202 are also corouted but the signage is very, very easy to miss.) The old alignment goes through Danbury and then crosses the Housatonic River over a nice truss crossing which regrettably we have no time for today -- my apologies to Paul Grochowski who sent me a long list of lovely old alignments and I got so bogged down that I could only pick a few.

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Eventually US 6 trends northeast through Woodbury and Watertown towards the north end of Bristol.

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The typical countryside here is relatively densely forested in many spots. In fact, while using US 44 as a shortcut, the GPS actually had trouble getting a signal for the very first time during the entire trip and had to completely reacquire several times due to the poor sky visibility.

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A 1929 creek crossing along the old route.

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Finally, I-84 sucks us back in as we prepare to enter the state capital of Hartford. We'll stop here for today.

Next: Hartford, CT to New Bedford, MA!

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21 July 2006: Hartford, CT to New Bedford, MA
 


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