Among the tasks you typically expect a state transportation department to perform are building roads and repairing them.
Not high on the list, though, is pointing drivers in the direction of Philadelphia cheesesteak sandwiches.
Nonetheless, it turns out that PennDOT has created a guide, using taxpayer dollars, letting folks know where they can satisfy their hankering for one of those yummy mainstays from the opposite side of the commonwealth. The Patriot-News in Harrisburg reported last week that PennDOT's two-page brochure lists names, addresses, directions and hours for a half-dozen spots in the City of Brotherly Love where you can grab a Philly cheesesteak. It's just been updated, and is being made available at roadside plazas and welcome centers, and although they're free, they cost taxpayers somewhere in the vicinity of 2 to 3 cents apiece.
A spokesman said the guide was "a service," not advertising. He also told the newspaper they are a time-saver for staff who are often questioned by out-of-towners about where they should get the sandwiches. But, not surprisingly, restaurant owners who also serve Philly cheesesteaks and there are certainly a whole lot more than six of them are unhappy that they aren't having the spotlight shined on them courtesy of PennDOT.
And it's not just Philly cheesesteaks that PennDOT has been promoting. They also have guides for Pittsburgh area malls, camping, flea markets, covered bridges and various stores in Sharon. All taxpayer funded.
Though an argument could be made that the guides promote commerce within the state, this seems to be a task better left to state or local tourism bureaus. And it's more than likely, in fact, that the PennDOT guides duplicate information that could be readily available elsewhere. If you have to know where an Arby's restaurant is in Mansfield, which one guide outlines, you can check your iPhone and input the directions into your car's GPS device. No assist from PennDOT necessary.
At a moment when the state's budget has been sliced and diced and our roads remain a checkerboard of bumps and hazards, PennDOT should worry first and foremost about filling potholes, not stomachs.
- (Washington) Observer-Reporter