John Rigas, June 26, 2006
Cars Verses Interstate 80
The movie Cars played recently at the Coudersport Theatre. From everything I’ve heard, it is an excellent film in
the tradition of other Disney-Pixar movies. A major theme of Cars is the role automobiles and superhighways
have played in the demise of Main Street in countless towns across America.
This subject reminds me of a debate which occurred in Coudersport and northern Pennsylvania just about fifty
years ago. The issue was where Interstate 80 should cross Pennsylvania. The original plan was for it to follow
the path of Route 6 across the northern part of the state, with by-passes around the many small towns of the
region. However, mainly through the efforts of a powerful politician from Williamsport, Z. H. “Dick” Confair, the
decision was finally made to build the road more toward the center of the state and Williamsport.
The debate in Coudersport over the issue took an interesting twist. One group of business people
enthusiastically favored the Route 6 alternative, believing it would be good for economic development to have a
major highway run through Potter County. An equally vocal group of Borough merchants, however, strongly
opposed this plan for fear the by-pass would severely reduce traffic on Coudersport’s Main Street and in their
stores. This group’s wishes ultimately prevailed.
I do not presume to know which side of this spirited debate was correct, but I cannot help but reflect that after all
of these years, Route 6 survives as a wonderfully unique piece of Americana. For someone with the time for
leisurely travel and with a keen appreciation of the nostalgic, few experiences can match a trip across
Pennsylvania on this old road. While enjoying scenic beauty that is unsurpassed, he will absorb in the long string
of small towns a culture that was once the very backbone of America. It is a way of life which has shaped and
inspired me from my earliest memories and of which I have always been proud to be a part.