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Centre County Gets $6M for I-80 Ramp, I-99 Repaving, Penns Valley Corridor

by and on March 18, 2017 5:00 AM

Centre County is getting a $6 million boost for a variety of major road projects, including repaving portions of Interstate 99, jump-starting the long-dormant Routes 322/144/45 corridor project and implementing safety improvements for Exit 161 at the I-80/99 interchange.

Money is also earmarked for identifying safety improvements needed for the crash-plagued intersection of Routes 26 and 150 near Howard.

Allocation of the funds was approved by the coordinating committee of the Centre County Metropolitan Planning Organization at a recent meeting.

Here’s a breakdown of the funding:

■ An additional $300,000 for short-term, low-cost safety improvements to exit 161 of I-80 in Bellefonte, at the I-99/Route 26 interchange.

This money will be added to $300,000 already in place. In addition, it is possible some funds from the I-99 repaving could also be used here, officials said.

Concerns include the shortness of the ramp coming off of I-80 westbound, exacerbated by a relatively sharp curve, followed by a T-intersection with Route 26 in which sight lines are not ideal.

The current study would help the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation determine what low-cost safety improvements might make sense in the area, PennDOT spokeswoman Marla Fannin said.

The cost of the study will not exceed $225,000. Low-cost safety improvements could include anything from signage and signals to geometry improvements, she added. 

A timetable for the improvements was not available.

“We felt pretty strongly as a staff that we needed to see something happen” at the interchange, said Tom Zilla, principal transportation planner for the Centre Regional Planning Agency.

In the long term, PennDOT is looking at a major project to move the ramp about two miles east with access to Route 26 (estimated at $45 million), and creating a separate, high-speed interchange between Interstates 80 and 99 (estimated at $130 million).

■ $2.1 million to mill and repave portions of the I-99/Route 322/State College Bypass from Valley Vista Boulevard to Fox Hollow Road.

Dependent on funding, this project could take place as early as 2018, according to Fannin. The overall cost estimate for the project is $2.5 million, she said.

Work may extend to Port Matilda if funds are available, officials said.

Zilla noted that the road is “broken up pretty bad” in Patton Township. 

■ $3 million to update data for the Routes 322/144/45 corridor project between Potters Mills and Boalsburg.

The state pulled the project off the drawing board in 2004 because of a funding shortfall, but reactivated it in 2013. In January, PennDOT committed the $3 million that will be used to update data related to traffic and crashes, water and natural resources, agricultural resources, cultural and historic resources and land use.

Officials emphasized that the money is not for the identification or evaluation of alternative traffic solutions for the area, a step that might some day result from the data.

The “data refresh” would likely take two years, with a break before moving into design and construction if funding was approved. PennDOT estimates the project could cost $670 million and take about 10 years once it was given the go-ahead.

Committee member Barbara Spencer, of Halfmoon Township, expressed concern about spending $3 million after data had been gathered years ago.

But Karen Michael, district executive for PennDOT’s Engineering District 2, said new data is needed, as “you’re looking at 13- or 14-year-old data at least.”

“We have to look at traffic,” she said. “A lot of things with residents and businesses have changed.”

She added that there are also some new agricultural areas.

■ $150,000 for a safety study of the intersection of Routes 26 and 150 in Howard Township.

Zilla noted that “when crashes occur up there they are bad.” He said the intersection “has confounded us for some time.” Some steps have been taken, including cutting down on signage to make a little less clutter in the area. He noted that the intersection is not at a 90-degree angle and that people making right turns have to look back over their shoulder to see traffic.

The committee approved looking at other intersections along Route 150 if funding is available.

■ $375,000 to fix a structurally deficient bridge on a local road.

Some recommendations for which bridge to fix will be presented to the committee at a future meeting, possibly in April. The money includes $300,000 in federal funds, $56,000 in state funds and will require a match of about $19,000 in local funds.

(Google Earth image) The intersection of Routes 26 and 150 in Howard Township, which does not come to a 90-degree angle, has been the scene of some serious crashes.


This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.



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