Big Changes Could Come to Route 322 if Transportation Bill Passes in Pennsylvania
Rep. Kerry Benninghoff has bad memories of Route 322 from his days as Centre County coroner.
"I have mile markers as I go through my district of some very sad situations along that road," he says. While repairing the road might not stop every accident, Benninghoff said it's a necessary step to make a very dangerous highway safer for motorists.
Gov. Tom Corbett is pushing for a nearly $2 billion transportation bill to be passed by the Pennsylvania state legislature. On Thursday, Rep. Benninghoff, Sen. Jake Corman, local government leaders and PennDOT secretary Barry Schoch held a press conference alongside Route 322 in Potters Mills. They came to showcase an area that could benefit from the transportation bill.
In the past, transportation funding has been a point of contention in the legislature. Sen. Jake Corman says the bill is an investment in the state's future. Corman says he's thrilled the bill passed by a vote of 45-5 in the senate. However, the legislation must still be approved by the general assembly.
"Trust me. That's pretty amazing for a vote of this significance," Corman said. "I think it speaks to the secretary and his job over the past couple years for this investment. I think it speaks to the people of Pennsylvania, that their representatives went home and they said, 'Yes, nobody likes having to invest more in something, but unlike the general fund where money goes and sort of sits and can go anywhere ... this is a user fee.
"This is a fee that we understand as a commuting public that if we want to drive on a safe road, safe bridges, we want to make the proper infrastructure improvements, then we need to do that together," Corman said.
Corman says one of the most dangerous highways in the state is "right in our own front yard." He thinks Route 322 will be made much safer if the bill passes,
More than 13,000 vehicles use the road each day, Schoch says, and that number increases to 20,000 cars during Penn State football weekends.
Schoch says improvements to Route 322 would take place between Seven Mountains and Boalsburg and would include two projects:
- An estimated $105 million project, known as Potters Mills Gap, would create a fully divided, four-lane roadway east from the Route 144/322 intersection to the top of Seven Mountains, near the Centre/Mifflin County line.
- Additional improvements along the U.S. 322 corridor at an estimated cost of $300 million.
"Projects such as Potters Mills Gap have been waiting for far too long and if the legislature acts on transportation funding we will widen nearly four miles of the roadway, bring it up to current standards and ultimately improve safety for the thousands of people who travel on this roadway everyday," Schoch says.
Also included in the bill is repairs to 77 Centre County bridges, 15 of which are listed as "structurally deficient," Corman says. The Waddle Road interchange will be improved to keep traffic from getting backed up.
There will even be a "significant investment" in the Centre Area Transportation Authority. CATA will receive an 18 percent increase in funding if the bill is approved. The bill could even make it possible for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to fix the dam at Colyer Lake.
Schoch said if even more investment is made to the State College and surrounding area, other improvements could include:
- Reconstructing 4.5 miles of Atherton Street in State College from Lowes Boulevard to Branch Road for an estimated $29 million;
- Constructing a new interchange on Interstate 99 at Toftrees and Waddle Road in State College for an estimated $13 million; and
- Resurfacing and bridge preservation along a 110-mile stretch of Route 22 in Juniata County for an estimated $20 million.