The Creation of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT)

May 6, 1970

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) was established. The bill creating this department was signed into law by Pennsylvania Governor Raymond P. Shafer in a ceremony at his office in the State Capitol in Harrisburg.

That legislative measure had enjoyed widespread support from both sides of the political aisle in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. “This is one of the few times we have demonstrated bipartisanship” remarked Representative Joseph F. Bonetto, the Democratic chairman of the Transportation Committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Richard C. Frame, a Republican state senator who was the chief sponsor of the bill, characterized that bipartisan support as “almost as important and significant as the measure itself.”

PennDOT was created to replace the Pennsylvania Department of Highways (PDH), which had been in existence since 1903. Along with taking over PDH’s longtime responsibilities for the construction and maintenance of many of Pennsylvania’s highways, the multimodal PennDOT assumed the transportation-oriented duties carried out at the time by other state agencies such as the Departments of Commerce, Revenue, Community Affairs, Military Affairs, and Forests and Waters.

The law establishing PennDOT officially took effect on July 1, 1970, and that was when Shafer swore in Victor W. Anckaitis as the new department’s first secretary. “Ground, air and water, we need all modes of transportation,” said Anckaitis on that day. “We will endeavor to prepare a total transportation plan for the state.” The 67-year-old Anckaitis had worked for PDH since 1931, rising through the ranks of that department to become its chief engineer and deputy secretary.

A half-century later, PennDOT is responsible for more than 41,000 miles (66,000 kilometers) of roadway – as well as approximately 24,500 bridges –throughout the Keystone State. (Pennsylvania’s section of Interstate 79, which is one of those PennDOT-maintained routes, is featured in the above photograph.) PennDOT does not have jurisdiction over the 360-mile (580-kilometer) Pennsylvania Turnpike, which is maintained instead by a namesake commission that was set up for that controlled-access highway in 1937.

As part of its ongoing multimodal mission, PennDOT also continues to supervise or support other major components of the state’s wide-ranging transportation infrastructure. These components include airports; inland waterways; ports; railroads; public transit; and bicycle and pedestrian routes.

Additional information on PennDOT is available at https://www.penndot.gov/Pages/default.aspx

For more information on Victor W. Anckaitis, please check out his 2 September 1988 obituary in the Pennsylvania-based Morning Call newspaper at https://www.mcall.com/news/mc-xpm-1988-09-02-2649171-story.html

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