High Speed Interchange a High Priority
The number of visitors can climb to over 100,000 on a Penn State Football home game weekend.
Anyone traveling to and from Centre County during morning and evening rush hours; on holiday weekends, or worse yet, on Penn State Football home game weekends, knows how dangerous and frustrating the current I-99/I-80 interchange at Bellefonte Exit 161 can be for motorists. Traffic doesn’t flow. Safety risks abound.
How bad is it?
High volume, fast-moving interstate traffic, including tractor trailers, mixes with local traffic – which even includes bicyclists and Amish buggies – at intersections controlled by stop signs. Traffic exiting I-80 frequently backs up and blocks the main lane of travel on the interstate. Traffic backs up on I-99 because of vehicles trying to make left turns onto I-80 East. Motorists that mistake Jacksonville Road for the I-80 East on-ramp suddenly swerve back into traffic on Route 26.
For more than 15 years, a solution has been proposed: the construction of a new, modern high-speed interchange to replace the existing Exit 161. There would also be a new local access interchange built to provide safer travel between I-99, I-80, Route 26 and other local roads. This project – a key missing link on the National Highway System – will provide safer travel for residents, commuters, students and visitors, and positively impact commerce, tourism, and new business investment into the region.
Some progress has been made on the project over the years. Design and right-of-way acquisition is almost complete, and the first part of the project, the new local access interchange, can be ready for construction within two years.
What has stopped progress is its cost – a staggering $185 million. No state or federal funding is currently allocated for the project. But now a window of opportunity exists to secure the necessary funding for this major highway improvement.
Window of opportunity
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation recently applied for federal funding through the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant program to construct the I-99/I-80 Interchange project. To show its commitment, the Centre County Metropolitan Planning Organization (CCMPO) voted to allocate a portion of its funding to pay for required upgrades on Route 26 (Jacksonville Road) should PennDOT be successful in its grant application.
If the federal government approves PennDOT’s application, construction of the high-speed and local access interchanges will finally begin, and one major enhancement to Centre County’s highway system will be realized.
Show your support
PennDOT, the U .S. Department of Transportation, and state/federal elected officials need to know that building the I-99/I-80 high-speed interchange is important to residents of Centre County and the surrounding central Pennsylvania region. Sign your name to the growing list of businesses and individuals that support this critical highway improvement project. We will make sure that officials receive the message – loud and clear!