Best of Keystone Crossroads 2014

     Photo collage from Keystone Crossroads staff and AP images.

    Photo collage from Keystone Crossroads staff and AP images.

    As 2014 comes to an end, we want to share with you some of our best work, so far.

    About six months ago we launched Keystone Crossroads: Rust or Revival?, a public media reporting project focused on the urgent challenges facing Pennsylvania’s distressed cities.

    Our mission is to delve into the root causes of cities’ struggles as well as potential solutions and stories of reinvention. 

    As 2014 comes to an end, we want to share with you some of our best work, so far.

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    We’re still just getting started, though. In 2015, we’ll be keeping tabs on policy changes to come from governor-elect Tom Wolf. We’ll examine how and why cities are struggling with pension deficits. We’ll explore how cities are transforming their waterfronts, and much more.

    Thank you for listening to our stories, reading our articles and responding to our inquiries. Let us know how we’re doing through Twitter @Pacrossroads or via email at


    The state of Pennsylvania’s bridges, Part 1: How are they holding up?

    Pennsylvania has a higher percentage of structurally deficient bridges than any other state. But what does that mean? Are the bridges unsafe? This is the first story of our three-part series on the state’s bridges


    Pa. cities consider leasing out water system to balance budget

    Struggling Pennsylvania cities have to make hard decisions about how to balance the budget. One move? Selling or leasing out a city’s water system.


     Economic Development

    Qualified employees increasingly hard to come by in manufacturing sector

    Some areas – like Harrisburg, Reading, and Scranton-Wilkes-Barre – gained manufacturing jobs over the last year, but the overall trend in the sector has been decidedly downward for many years. Though there are fewer jobs in production, employers are having a hard time finding qualified employees.


    Can Allentown score big with new hockey arena development?

    Academics say publicly subsidized sports venues usually don’t live up to a city’s promises. But Allentown officials say its new hockey arena is different and could potentially revive the struggling city.


    Policy & Politics

    Pennsylvania’s cities confront homelessness

    The nation’s homeless population is trending downward, but Pennsylvania’s has been rising for three of the past four years, including 2013. Pennsylvania cities have different approaches to dealing with the growing number of unsheltered homeless people. Also, a follow up story on how regulated tent cities have been pondered, but are improbable.

    Voter turnout trends lower in distressed cities, but Harrisburg and Erie are exceptions

    Voter turnout is lower and dropping faster in struggling communities than the rest of the state. An analysis of Department of State data shows turnout in 2010 was down nearly 20 percent from 1994 in Pennsylvania’s struggling communities.



    Johnstown reconsiders its industrial rivers for recreation

    As Johnstown reevaluates what kind of place it wants to be, the city is working to attract new residents, new businesses, and new types of industry. The three rivers that frame the city have also become part of the discussion. What the rivers can mean to Johnstown is still under discussion, but already a lot has changed.


    State College pilots web project to boost civic engagement

    What stops people from being engaged in their community? Perhaps local government meetings aren’t held at convenient times. Or people feel like they don’t know enough about local issues. A Penn State research group has piloted a project meant to get residents to weigh in on local decision-making. They’ve made the bet that citizens will be more willing to participate if they can do it online.

    Then and Now photo series

    This ongoing photographic series shows and explores how Pennsylvania cities have changed by looking at historical images and comparing them with original photographs of today. The cities and towns featured so far are: Pittsburgh, State College, Johnstown, Bethlehem, Chester, Reading, Lancaster and Scranton.


    Explainer series

    Sometimes complicated jargon and concepts can get in the way of understanding Pennsylvania’s issues and proposed solutions. That’s why we started a series of “explainers” that try to lay out key facts, clarify concepts and demystify government jargon. We’ve explained Pennsylvania’s Act 47 law, the terms “eds and meds,” home rule, land banks, and many more.

    ‘Five Questions with …’ series

    We’ve been catching up with Pennsylvania’s top urban thinkers and doers to share their wisdom on cities. We’ve asked them about what amenities and services they’ve seen other places that they wish they could bring back to their cities, to identify people who are considered “sparks” in the community, and about what flaws or habits they would like to see change in their community.



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