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Streets, Department of / Highway Division

[Record group 88-99]
Agency Function
Highway Division Responsibilities and Organization

Primary responsibility for the safety of Philadelphia streets lies with the department's Highway Division. This division performs and oversees the construction, reconstruction, repair, and maintenance of nearly 2,100 miles of city streets, including 312 bridge structures. It also controls street openings and excavations, as well as their restoration.

The Highway Division is subdivided into a Construction Unit and a Maintenance Unit with an administrative staff that supports both units. Each unit is further sectioned into several operating units that carry out or oversee construction and maintenance activities. Because activities cover all areas of the City, field district offices are maintained throughout Philadelphia.

The Streets Commissioner appoints a Chief Highway Engineer who is responsible for the operations of the Highway Division. Two Assistant Chief Engineers assist him, one each assigned to the Construction and Maintenance Units. In addition, operations at each field office are under the control of District Engineers.

Highway Maintenance Programs
Highway Division personnel carry out or oversee various street construction and maintenance activities under two programs:
  • Street Construction and Reconstruction
  • Street Patching, Resurfacing, and Related Maintenance
Because most areas of Philadelphia have been developed, the Highway Division rarely undertakes any original street-construction activity. Instead, it focuses principally on the reconstruction of existing city streets as an on-going activity. When construction or reconstruction activity do occur, the work is performed by private contractors. Participation by division employees is limited to contract monitoring, including inspection of the projects.

In contrast, Highway Division personnel carry out, as well as oversee private contractors, all of the numerous activities involved in the department's program of Street Patching, Resurfacing, and Related Maintenance. Most significant of these activities in terms of ensuring safe city streets include:

  1. street resurfacing,
  2. ditch restoration as a result of private plumber and Water Department activity,
  3. cave-in restoration,
  4. pothole repairs,
  5. bridge repairs, and
  6. snow and ice removal.

Agency History
The beginnings of the Highway Division can be traced to 1854 when an initial Department of Highways, Bridges, Sewers and Cleansing was established pursuant to an Council ordinance approved on 29 August 1854 by Mayor Robert T. Conrad. Under the Bullitt Bill of 1885, this department was integrated into the Department of Public Works in 1887, and became a division of the new Department of Streets in 1952.

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Last updated on November 8, 2000