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State highway Web site wins praise for Unity designer

In 1997, Jeff Kitsko was exploring a Web site called www.kurumi.com — better known as Connecticut Roads — when he noticed a challenge put forth by the site’s producer, Scott Oglesby.

“He was asking people around the country to create a site about the roads in their own state,” said Kitsko, 31, a freelance Web designer from Unity. “By the time I saw this, about half the states were done, but Pennsylvania was not covered.”

That inspired Kitsko’s creation of www.pahighways.com , called Pennsylvania Highways.

People have used Kitsko’s site to find eyeglasses they left at roadside stops. Law firms contact him for still photos of road spans where accidents have occurred to assist their cases.

But most of Kitsko’s correspondence via e-mail deals with one subject.

“Most are complaints about PennDOT,” he said.

The site Kitsko started with 10 America Online megabytes has evolved into an expansive and well-recognized online information source for the state’s travelers.

It includes incisive historical descriptions of federal and interstate highways cutting through the state, some 40,000 miles of state-maintained roads, and an information center.

Oglesby was so enthused by the Pennsylvania Highways site that he allowed Kitsko to use his site’s background road graphic to jazz it up.

“People have seen its evolution over the years, and I get a lot of feedback about the quality of information,” Kitsko said. “I now have subdomains for the Pittsburgh, Erie, Harrisburg and Philadelphia areas.”

Kitsko’s site features a link to the online version of Overdrive Magazine — a Randall-Reilly Publishing product that each year issues a Highway Report Card, a survey of America’s worst roads.

This year, Overdrive ranked Pennsylvania second-worst only to the pothole-filled, tar-patched passages of Louisiana.

“I look at Jeff’s site as a wonderful historical resource on Pennsylvania roads, for sure, necessary for such an old system with so much national truck traffic,” said Todd Dills, senior editor of Overdrive and Truckers News.

PennDOT press Secretary Rich Kirkpatrick pointed out that 40 truckers nationwide reported the state’s roads to be undrivable.

“We’ve always marveled at that survey for that reason. There seems to be a disconnect between their information and ours,” Kirkpatrick said. “Normally the state gets taken to task for the condition of Interstate 80 or (Interstate) 81, because that’s where most truckers travel.”

Kirkpatrick said PennDOT does an annual examination of that highway and the rest of the state’s 40,000 miles of roads using a worldwide standard for smoothness called the International Roughness Index. The agency tests the smoothness of each road with a laser device that measures the inches of movement per road mile.

“The less movement, the better the pavement quality,” Kirkpatrick said. “The state most recently had an International Roughness Index of 63, which is much better than the national median.”

PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission have worked with Kitsko to clarify information for his site, including updates on ongoing projects including the Mon-Fayette Expressway, the Southern Beltway and the Beaver Valley Expressway.

“I think Jeff’s site complements other road research sites and transportation agency sites, as well,” said Joe Agnello, state Turnpike Commission spokesman. “He has a knack for explaining things about roads in a very readable and enjoyable way.”

Kitsko hopes to begin documenting information of more roads maintained by each of the state’s 67 counties and 2,568 municipalities.

“I’m working on the state’s secondary routes now,” Kitsko said. “That’s going to be a long process to complete.”

But it’s a long and winding road Kitsko will happily travel.


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