The Bud Shuster Factor
Interstate 99 received this number through the political maneuverings of one Bud Shuster, former chairman of the House transportation committee (left office in December 2000). With that chair comes power over highway tax money. So he went ahead and got himself a high priority corridor in his home district, the "Appalachian Thruway," and renamed it in his name (the "Bud Shuster Highway") with his number (Interstate 99). I guess a three digit number just wouldn't cut it for this route. He wanted this corridor to be built through his home district, so he got it.
As for the routing, Interstate 99 is currently defined to be entirely within Pennsylvania, but it has potential to extend north and south along the U.S. 220 and U.S. 15 corridors. Interstate 99 runs from the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Bedford north to Interstate 80 near State College. Only the section from Bedford to north of Altoona is complete (via the old U.S. 220 freeway), and Interstate 99 signs have already superseceded the old U.S. 220 signs. Design and construction is underway to build Interstate 99 north of its current terminus at Bald Eagle. This includes an extension north to Port Matilda and easterly turn to meet U.S. 322 and the Nittany Expressway on its way to State College. Then Interstate 99 will turn north (to parallel College Avenue) and meet Pennsylvania 26 (the Bellefonte Bypass) to meet Interstate 80. U.S. 322 through State College is congested, especially on college football gamedays, so the Interstate 99 project is expected to alleviate this significantly.
According to C.C. Slater, back in 1997 the signing for Interstate 99 was pretty bad. He tells me, "Penn DOT has yet to put "99" plates on US 220's gantry signs, and there are no trailblazers for this highway, making it blasted hard to find when you're wandering around Altoona. From IH 80, there's no mention of it either -- which is kinda weird, because EVERY U.S. 220 marker north of Bald Eagle also has an IH 80 trailblazer plastered right below it." Signage has since improved, but still is not terrific. I expect this to change once Interstate 99 is completed between Interstate 70-76 (Pennsylvania Turnpike) and Interstate 80.
There is significant opposition to Interstate 99 and U.S. 220. See the Friends of the Earth Home Page, where they discuss the disadvantages to completing Interstate 99 between Bald Eagle and the Pennsylvania 26 connector to Interstate 80. In spite of this opposition, Interstate 99 construction continues.
Interstate 99 could be extended in both directions. To the north, Interstate
99 might continue via U.S. 220 through Lock Haven, then follow U.S. 15 past Williamsport to meet Interstate 390 and terminate in Rochester, N.Y. On its southern end, Interstate 99 could replace U.S. 220 at least as far south as Cumberland, Maryland. It's hard to say. As mentioned above, the "Interstate 2000" article from Roads and Bridges indicates that an extension of Interstate 83 north to Rochester might be planned. If so, it's hard to say if the interstate would be built on U.S. 15 or U.S. 220, or possibly end at an extended Interstate 83.
Progress on the Interstate 99 and U.S. 220 Corridor
Plans are ongoing to extend the U.S. 220 expressway both north and south of its current termini in Bald Eagle and Bedford. I include a discussion of the U.S. 220 Corridor south of Bedford because it has garnered much controversy in recent months, even though it is not officially part of Corridor 9.
Summary of Interstate 99 Projects in Pennsylvania:
- From Tyrone to State College Bypass. Construction is scheduled to begin Nov 1999 and is projected to be completed in 2003.
- From State College Bypass to Bellefonte Bypass (Pennsylvania State Route 26 Relocation). Currently under construction. Scheduled to be completed in 2002. (Connects from Beaver Stadium exit of State College Bypass to just north of the stub end of the Bellefonte Bypass.)
- Bellefonte Bypass (Pennsylvania State Route 26). This was formerly a Super Two highway. Build-out to full four lanes completed in 1997.
- From Tyrone to State College Bypass. Currently under design, under "Centre County Design Projects" on the PennDOT web site.
- From State College Bypass to Bellefonte Bypass (Pennsylvania State Route 26 Relocation).
Progress on the U.S. 220 Corridor south of Cumberland
In Allegany County, Maryland, where U.S. 220 comes into Cumberland, the Democratic Speaker of the Maryland State House of Delegates is lobbying for U.S. 220 to be upgraded to Interstate status through MD to connect with ARC Corridor H, which has just recently been released from an injuction prohibiting construction.
Progress on U.S. 220 between Cumberland and Bedford
The $42 million project to build a new, two-lane U.S. 220 from Cumberland north to the Pennsylvania State Line (about four and a half miles) was completed in December 2000. This project was funded in early August 1998 by $40 million in Appalachian Redevelopment Commission money and $8 in state of Maryland funds were made available. The Speaker of the House of Delegates, Casper Taylor, secured the ARC funds for the road, and the state is matching 20% of that total with its own funding. This funding comes from Taylor's earlier proposal to use the next six years of Maryland ARC highway funds as leverage for the state's share of the money needed to construct U.S. 220, which would be about $48 million for the total project.
Initial construction will be a Super Two on a four-lane right-of-way with perhaps one level junction. Right-of-way acquisition is almost complete, and the utilities are moving water lines as a first step in the pre-construction process. Ultimately this Super Two will be upgraded to a full freeway, and it is likely that the freeway will be designated as part of Interstate 99 as required.
Edward Curtis reports that U.S. 220 south of Bedford is in reasonably good shape. In particular, the road from the U.S. 220/Business 220 split to just south of the U.S. 30 interchange is a two-lane road that looks and feels like it has recently been repaved. Once one gets north of U.S. 30, however, things get a little bumpier.
For more on the U.S. 219/U.S. 220 comparison, go to the Corridor 21 page. On that page, you can see what the staunchest supporters of the U.S. 219/Interstate 67 Corridor would like to have, but it is fairly clear to me that the U.S. 220/Interstate 99 camp is much further along in its development.
Status of Interstate 99 between Bedford and Bald Eagle
As noted above, this stretch of Corridor 9 is completed and open to traffic. It is cosigned as Interstate 99 and U.S. 220.
At Interstate 99's southern end, its connection with the Pennsylvania Turnpike involves signalized intersections (off the mainlines of both Interstate 99 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike). Actually, separate exits from both Interstate 99 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike dump vehicles onto old U.S. 220 at the same place. There are no plans to upgrade this connection. The reason for this is Pennsylvania Turnpike intransigence. The Turnpike Commission is an autonomous agency and isn't forced to go along with PennDOT, or it seems with the state, the FHWA, or any other agency, for that matter.
More specifically, Edward Curtis indicates that Interstate 99 is pretty well signed, both at interchanges and with trailblazers that lead to the Interstate. Heading north on U.S. 220, the first "To Interstate 99" trailblazer one encounters is at the U.S. 220/Business U.S. 220 split. When U.S. 220 becomes limited-access, there are "To NORTH Interstate 99" trailblazers pointing straight ahead at each interchange. Interstate 99 officially begins at the Pennsylvania Turnpike exit. There is no Interstate 99 shield on the overhead directional signs at this trumpet interchange. There is a North Interstate 99 trailblazer at ground level. Going southbound, there is an End Interstate 99 sign just before the PA turnpike exit. On U.S. 30, there is a "To Interstate 99" trailblazer directing you onto the U.S. 30 mainline at the U.S. 30/Business U.S. 30 split heading eastbound into Bedford. There are Interstate 99 signs at both entrances to the highway at Pennsylvania State Route 56.
Status of Corridor Between Bald Eagle and State College
The design phase for Interstate 99 between Bald Eagle and Interstate 80 began in October 1997. According to Rep. Shuster, the Interstate 99 freeway between Bald Eagle and State College is necessitated by the safety considerations of U.S. 220, an historically dangerous stretch of highway that currently carries Interstate 99 traffic from Bald Eagle northward. In 1997 alone, there were five fatalities along the highway.
Originally estimated at a cost of $430 million in 1997, the $700 million project will include 36 bridges and three interchanges, one each at Pennsylvania State Route 350/Bald Eagle, U.S. 322/Port Matilda, and the Mount Nittany Expressway at Scotia Road ("Interstate 99 design phase gets under way," 10/15/97, by Margaret Hopkins, and "Shuster says path open for construction of Interstate 99," 7/4/99, both from Centre Daily Times).
The planned new alignment of Interstate 99 would go through about two miles of forest, timbered forest and meadows in Taylor Township before swinging to the west side of Port Matilda in Worth Township. An interchange is planned there, with high-speed ramps connecting with a proposed U.S. 322 freeway (see below). Then Interstate 99 would cross farmland, skirt Martha Furnace, and begin its ascent to Skytop. A portion of U.S. 322 would be relocated as the two roads crest Skytop and start their descent. From there, Interstate 99 would descend into Patton Township, circling Matternville, cutting through a portion of the Sellers Farm and eventually meeting up with the four-lane Mt. Nittany Expressway.
Construction on Interstate 99 between Bald Eagle and State College was delayed for several years by several environmental issues. Although PennDOT plans to create 747 acres of wetland and terrestrial mitigation and 18,170 linear feet of aquatic restoration measures, the planned Interstate highway still had difficulties. At issue was the proposed alignment of the first eight miles of Interstate 99 along the mountain ridge east of U.S. Route 220 in the Bald Eagle Valley.
Several agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Parks Service, requested a review of the planned Interstate 99 extension, saying their agencies preferred a valley alignment. In a May 1999 letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the ridge alignment "would have adverse effects on important aquatic resources and could affect 192 separate wetlands, 35 perennial and intermittent streams and 2,895 acres of habitat for many species." In addition, some endangered bats roost in trees that would have to be cleared as part of the construction project. In the winter, the bats apparently take refuge in abandoned mines in the area.
In response to this letter, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works had 30 days to decide whether to approve the proposed alignment of the first section or to send the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation back to the drawing board. That 30-day period was due to expire, and on June 3, 1999, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave final environmental approval for the Interstate 99 connection between Bald Eagle and the Mount Nittany Expressway in State College
A June 4, 1999, article from the Centre Daily Times stated that approval of the environmental report clears the way for completion of the southern part of the Interstate 99 extension. Construction of Interstate 99 between Bald Eagle and State College is anticipated to begin by Fall 2000; however, a lawsuit by six or so organizations may delay the start of construction further. They are suing to move the alignment to the valley route, which is less costly, more environmentally friendly, and less likely to be affected as much by winter weather than the ridge alignment.
Once completed, U.S. 220 will be rerouted onto the new Interstate 99 route between Bald Eagle and State College, as evidenced by signs on the new road. In October 2001, field evidence showed these shields turned around or covered on the State College bypass near the U.S. 322/Pennsylvania 26 interchange.
As currently scheduled, completion of this segment, along with the upgraded Pennsylvania 26 (see next section) is planned for 2003, which will make Interstate 99 a complete freeway between the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstate 70/76) and Interstate 80.
See Interstate 99 Project Contractor Web Page for photos and information.
Status of Corridor Between State College and Interstate 80:
The Pennsylvania 26 Relocation Project
The Super Two of Pennsylvania 26 from Interstate 80 to Bellefonte has been reconstructed as a four-lane limited access expressway as of 1999. Construction on the connection between this segment and the Mt. Nittany Expressway (existing U.S. 322) is scheduled to be completed by 2002. Construction on the segment from existing Interstate 99 near Bald Eagle to the Mt. Nittany Expy. is scheduled to begin in November 1999 and be complete in 2003.
For more information, go to the PennDOT District 2 Route 26 Relocation Project Home Page.
According to the article, "Interstate 99 design phase gets under way," 10/15/97, by Margaret Hopkins from Centre Daily Times), an 11-mile section of Interstate 99 north of State College to Bellefonte -- the planned relocation of state Route 26 -- began its design phase in late 1997. This stretch will funnel traffic away from what the article refers to as "the existing and increasingly congested Route 26." Eventually, plans call for Interstate 99 to meet Interstate 80 via the Bellefonte bypass, which is now being expanded from two to four lanes.
The Bellefonte bypass was constructed in the 1970s as a Super Two. Build-out of the highway to four-lane freeway standards was completed in 1997. To accommodate the Interstate 99 connection with Interstate 80 (via Pennsylvania State Route 26, the Bellefonte Bypass), the Interstate 80/Pennsylvania 26 interchange (Interstate 80 Exit 24) will be reconstructed. Currently, this is a modified diamond-type interchange. The new configuration will be an expressway-to-expressway high-speed semi-directional "Y." (An additional exit for local roads will be constructed on Interstate 80 to the east of Exit 24.) Construction is projected to begin in 2001, with completion in 2003.
As an aside, the northern extension of Interstate 99 was planned to pass through Bald Eagle Valley to Milesburg via U.S. 220 to connect to Interstate 80 near Exit 23. However, PennDOT traffic counts showed that while trucks were heading to Interstate 80 via Milesburg, commuters from Tyrone and Altoona were using U.S. Routes 220 and 322 to come to the Centre County -- that is, State College -- region.
Northern Pennsylvania: U.S. 220, Interstate 80 to Williamsport
Future Interstate 99 signs and shields have been erected on U.S. 220 between Interstate 80 and Interstate 180 at Williamsport. From there, Future Interstate 99 signs may be found on U.S. 15 north to Interstate 86 (New York State Route 17). Even so, this may end up being Interstate 83 (as noted above).
For Interstate 99 to follow U.S. 220 and U.S. 15, two gaps along U.S. 220 between Interstate 80 and Williamsport will need to be completed. Even if Interstate 99 doesn't follow this route, Eric High says, converting U.S. 220 and U.S. 15 into four-lane expressway is warranted because of traffic counts and patterns, no matter what Interstate 99 does.
The two gaps are thus: one from Interstate 80 to Salona and the other from Jersey Shore to Williamsport. PennDOT does plan to complete these gaps as four-lane expressway. Environmental studies and preliminary engineering will begin by summer 2000 for the Jersey Shore-Williamsport segment. Construction may proceed by 2004. The Interstate 80-Salona segment is not as advanced. PennDOT is studying traffic patterns to determine the location of the point of connection with Interstate 80 (Exit 25 or 26). Looking at PennDOT's Four and Twelve Year Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPs), PennDOT has programmed $5.7 million for final design and $1.5 million for right-of-way acquisition for Period 2, and $65 million for construction during Period 3 (anytime during Fiscal Years 2009-2012) of the 12-year plan.
In the TIP, any guessing as to whether Interstate 99 will be extended north of Interstate 80 is eliminated. The TIP refers to the conversion of U.S. 220 into a limited access facility as such: "The project consists of upgrading U.S. Route 220 from Jersey Shore to approximately 0.5 mile west of the City of Williamsport to be a limited access facility that meets current design standards and is comparable to adjacent sections of U.S. Route 220 and Interstate 180. Alternatives including relocation and upgrade of existing facilities will be evaluated. The long-term plan is to incorporate this section of U.S. Route 220 into Interstate 99. This project is to upgrade U.S. Route 220 to the required standards."
Len Pundt writes on December 5, 2001: "The [U.S. 220] segment [between Jersey Shore and Williamsport] is four lanes, but not limited access. PennDOT has an ongoing project to design and build a four-lane limited-access expressway on a new alignment to complete this missing link. The website is at Susquehanna Beltway.
Bob Chessick writes that most of U.S. 220, except for six miles west of Williamsport and a section near Interstate 80 are certainly Interstate-grade and were supposed to be Interstate 180 (and Interstate 80 before that). Bob believes that this section of highway "will become Interstate 99 up to at least Williamsport where the current Interstate 180/U.S. 220/U.S. 15 junction is. One other note would be that the ramps for U.S. 15 from the expressway (U.S. 15 going to/from Mansfield) are interstate grade while the ones coming from U.S. 220 to/from Lock Haven are not and would have to be upgraded for Interstate 99 to proceed." As an aside, Interstate 180 is an east-west Interstate; however, mile markers increase westbound. It's east-west because it was supposed to follow U.S. 220 back to Interstate 80 on its other end.
Northern Pennsylvania/Southern New York: U.S. 15, Williamsport to Corning
As noted above, all of U.S. 15 north to Interstate 86 is signed as Future Interstate 99. U.S. 15 through northern Pennsylvania seems like a throwback to the days when the Interstate system was partially complete. The road is a patchwork of two-lane road, Super Two limited access highways, multi-lane divided expressways, and full-fledged freeways. Along the access-controlled portions, U.S. 15 has a 65 mph speed limit. There is room along much of U.S. 15 to provide for future expansion, complete with bridges and exits to nowhere and stretches of pavement that are not in use. U.S. 15 enters towns as the main street, then leaves as a superhighway, much the same way U.S. 101 does in Northern California.
There has been a lot of construction recently to add another lane to the Super Two between Mansfield and Williamsport. It is unclear if this construction will lead to a bypass of other towns and two-lane portions between Williamsport and Corning. I am sure the Corridor 9 designation will lead to additional improvements along this road, providing more direct access from Rochester, New York, south to Cumberland, Maryland, and Baltimore, Maryland, via the Interstate 390 and U.S. 15 corridors.
The progress on U.S. 15 north of Williamsport will result in continuous four-lane, controlled access expressway from Interstate 180 in Williamsport, PA, to Interstate 86 (former New York 17) near Corning, New York. The following list indicates the completed and planned upgrades along U.S. 15 from the Susquehanna Beltway project north to Interstate 86:
- Susquehanna Beltway. The U.S. 15 project (just west of Williamsport) is projected to begin construction in 2008.
- Existing U.S. 15 Freeway in Williamsport.
- Williamsport to Hepburnville. Completed October 1990.
- Hepburnville to above Cogan Station. Completed October 1994.
- Above Cogan Station to Trout Run. Completed October 1996.
- Trout Run to Buttonwood. Initial four-laning completed June 1998. Construction to replace two remaining at-grade intersections with grade-separated interchanges and improve substandard curves in the southbound lanes to begin in Spring 2005; projected complete in 2007.
- Buttonwood to Sebring. Completed November 1998.
- Sebring to Bloss Mountain. Completed September 1997.
- Bloss Mountain to Blossburg. Completed November 2000.
- Blossburg to Mansfield Bypass. Construction began Spring 2002, projected complete Fall 2004.
- Mansfield Bypass. Build out to four lanes. Construction began Summer 2000; it is projected for completion in 2004. A Pennsylvania Welcome Center on the southbound side overlooking the Tioga Reservoir was completed in Spring 2003. For more information, visit Route 15/Mansfield Bypass
- Mansfield Bypass to Presho, New York. Construction of Pennsylvania portion and short temporary New York section to begin Spring 2005, with projected completion in 2007. Construction of the full New York portion is not yet scheduled by NYSDOT, pending funding identification. (PennDOT is designing and constructing the Pennsylvania portion, PennDOT is designing the New York portion, and NYSDOT will construct the New York portion.) Incidentally, Presho is pronounced "PREE-show."
- Reconstruction of Interstate 86/U.S. 15 Interchange. The current diamond interchange will be replaced with a full freeway-to-freeway interchange with local road connectors. Construction will begin in Fall 2003 and is projected complete in 2007. More information, including a map, is available at the New York State DOT I-86 Project Page: U.S. 15 Interchange.
The proposed Interstate 83 extension listed in the Interstate 2000 report (see above) would be part of the northern portion of Corridor 9; however, it is not clear if an Interstate-compatible U.S. 15 would become Interstate 83 or Interstate 99.
Matt Best indicates that the U.S. 15 corridor north of Williamsport has undergone a remarkable transformation in the past ten years.
U.S. 15 has been upgraded to freeway standards from the intersection of U.S. 220/Interstate 180 in Williamsport to the top of Bloss Mountain with the exception of a four-lane section in the vicinity of Steam Valley that has at-grade intersections and substandard curves and grades. A continuation of the freeway is under construction between the top of Bloss Mountain to the south of Blossburg (major earthworks involved in this one!). The section from south of Blossburg to the southern end of the Mansfield bypass Super Two is entering ROW acquisition and final design activities. The Super Two bypass of Mansfield and Tioga will be upgraded to a full freeway in the next couple of years, with the design-build contract for the second span over the Tioga reservoir already let.
The final section between Tioga and the existing U.S. 15 freeway in New York State near Presho is in the final NEPA documentation phase. That leaves the Steam Valley section. The September 4th Pennsylvania Bulletin has advertised for consultants to submit letters of interest on the design of an upgrade to this section, including a full interchange with Pennsylvania State Route 184 to cost $54 million. Design work should be completed in 2004. Once all this work is completed, U.S. 15 will be interstate standard between Interstate 180 in Williamsport and Interstate 86 in Corning, NY. The only non-Interstate elements will be the interchange on either end. The U.S. 15/Interstate 86 interchange in Corning was rebuilt about ten years ago from a rotary interchange to a diamond interchange with traffic signals. This was probably done to avoid impacts to the U.S. 15 Cohocton River bridge, but this interchange will have to be reconstructed to allow the corridor to be included in the Interstate system. [As noted above, NYS DOT plans such an improvement to the I-86/U.S. 15 interchange, with construction starting in 2001 or 2002.]
Connecting Interstate 83 in Harrisburg with Interstate 180
U.S. 15 south of Interstate 80 will be relocated to the existing Pennsylvania 147 Super Two, which will ultimately be upgraded to a four-lane highway. This highway will be extended to the south as an expressway, crossing the Susquehanna River near Sunbury. With the U.S. 15 projects between Williamsburg and Corning, U.S. 15 will be a limited access expressway from New York 17 (Interstate 86) to just south of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.
From Selinsgrove south to U.S. 22/322 at Clarks Ferry, U.S. 15 is mostly expressway now, with construction on major missing links scheduled to begin spring 1999. Construction of the Dauphin Bypass (see the Dauphin Bypass web site), which is the last remaining missing link between the Susquehanna River at Clarks Ferry and Harrisburg was completed in early 2001.
Pennsylvania also plans other upgrades in the U.S. 11-15 and Pennsylvania 147 Corridors. The Central Susquehanna Valley Transportation Project (CSVT) is planned to enhance transportation through central Pennsylvania. Construction is projected to begin in 2004. A controlled-access four-lane expressway will continue from the northern stub-end of the Selinsgrove Bypass (just south of Shamokin Dam and Hummels Wharf) north on a new alignment. It will cross the Susquehanna River just north of Shamokin Dam and connect with Pennsylvania 147, which currently is a Super Two. Pennsylvania 147 will be built out to a full four-lane expressway. (However, the expressway will only be designated U.S. 15 on the west side of the river. The bridge over the Susquehanna and current Pennsylvania State Route 147 will be designated Pennsylvania 147. Signage for U.S. 15 will depart just before the crossing and follow current U.S. 15 north to Interstate 80.) Construction is projected to begin in 2004.
Len Pundt writes on December 5, 2001, "From Williamsport, I drove south along Interstate 180 and Pennsylvania 147. The build-out of the Pennsylvania 147 Super-2 is under way. Three of the four bridges for the "other half" (northbound) are finished. The next contract will involve the remaining bridge, and the grading and paving. Completion is anticipated in early 2003. From the southern end of the Pennsylvania 147 Super Two, the Central Susquehanna Valley Transportation (CSVT) project's four-lane limited-access expressway will connect to the northern end of the Selinsgrove Bypass. The DEIS was published in January 2001; construction is still a few years away (after 2004)."
Construction is underway on U.S. 15 immediately north of U.S. 22/322 from just south of Liverpool north to McKees Falls. (Already improved areas are from U.S. 22/322 near Amity Hall to Liverpool and from McKees Falls to the southern end of the Selinsgrove Bypass.) This will complete the widening of U.S. 15 from U.S. 22/322 near Amity Hall (where U.S. 22/322 crosses the Susquehanna River) to the Selinsgrove Bypass. The project will not, however, result in an expressway of any sort. The final configuration will be an at-grade facility of four lanes, with a fifth turning lane in places. There will be a number of signalized, jug-handled, at-grade intersections.
When all is finished, this corridor will not be an expressway from U.S. 22/322 near Amity Hall to the southern end of the Selinsgrove Bypass. PennDOT has no plans at all to upgrade the route to completely controlled access. So unless PennDOT decides to take the road it is just finishing at great expense and rip it out and build over it again, an Interstate 83 extension cannot proceed any further than Clarks Ferry (where U.S. 22/322 crosses the Susquehanna River, just across from Amity Hall). (It can proceed to Clarks Ferry because of the Dauphin Bypass now under construction and scheduled for completion in early 2001.)
To summarize, when the final result is reached, there will be Interstate-standard expressway from Interstate 81 to Clarks Ferry and from Selinsgrove to Interstate 86 in New York. Between Clarks Ferry and Selinsgrove, however, there will not be an expressway, let alone an Interstate-standard expressway.
Matt Best has driven between Harrisburg and Rochester several times. He writes (on October 8, 1999):
he section of U.S. 11/15 between the Clarks Ferry Bridge (the interchange with U.S. 22/322) and the southern terminus is undergoing a major upgrade. The section Patrick Mountain and McKees Half Falls is currently under construction, while the sections to the north and south have been completed. This section is being reconstructed to four lanes with five lane sections in Liverpool and New Buffalo. Access is not limited on this stretch, but tightly controlled with frequent jug handle intersection to facilitate U-turns. Because of this investment in a facility that is not up to interstate standards, it is unlikely that Interstate 83 will be run north via the U.S. 11/15 corridor. The reconstruction will provide a safe and efficient route through this rural area, but it will probably never be an Interstate highway.
The U.S. 15 corridor between Selinsgrove and Interstate 80 currently runs through congested sections in Humels Wharf, Shamokin Dam, and Lewisburg. The Department will be construction on the northbound roadway of the current super-2 section of Pennsylvania State Route 147 on the opposite side of the river (this is the facility that ties into Interstate 180 to the south of Interstate 80). This freeway section will tie into the Hummels Wharf/Shamokin Dam bypass that is currently being study under the NEPA process.
U.S. 322 from Harrisburg northwest to Woodland
Plans are underway to improve U.S. 322 to expressway standards between Harrisburg and Woodland. William F. Yurasko has driven the entire route, and tells me that overall, "U.S. 322 between State College and Interstate 81 is in pretty good shape, much of it Interstate-quality expressway. Traffic is not that high, but I have observed that on some sections it is at least half trucks." Although U.S. 322 is not directly part of Corridor 9, it is tangential to construction of Interstate 99, and some projects have found federal funding through the ISTEA/NHS/TEA-21 legislation. Below is a description of each of the sections of U.S. 322 between Harrisburg and Woodland.
Len Pundt writes on December 5, 2001, "All improvement projects south of the Selinsgrove Bypass have been completed. (The last of these--from near Liverpool to McKees Falls--was completed this week.) As reported here before, the entire route from US 22/322 to the Selinsgrove Bypass is four lanes, but it is not limited access expressway. It is at grade, usually with a Jersey barrier median and signalized jughandles, sometimes with a center turning lane (fifth lane) and signalized intersections. For now, it's a very quick ride nonetheless, since the signals are well-synchronized."
U.S. 22/322 Harrisburg to Lewistown
For information on improvements between Harrisburg and Duncannon, check out the "Connecting Interstate 83 in Harrisburg with Interstate 180" section above.
The gap in the U.S. 22/322 expressway through the Lewistown Narrows is currently the most dangerous stretch of roadway in Pennsylvania. It made national headlines in the 1990s because of the high accident rate on this stretch of highway. The highway is an expressway at either end of the Narrows, but is one lane in either direction through the Narrows, which is defined as being between Lewistown and Arch Rock. Construction of the expressway missing link is projected to begin in the spring of 2002, and be completed in the fall of 2004. The Narrows project may increase traffic following completion, making the case for a Mount Nittany to Seven Mountains expressway.
U.S. 322, at Lewistown and Milroy
Most of U.S. 322 is expressway through Lewiston and Milroy, including the Milroy bypass completed in 1999. U.S. 22 splits southwest from U.S. 322 at its junction with U.S. 522. The Electric Avenue Interchange is the location where the Northern Lewistown Bypass (U.S. 22 west/U.S. 522 north/south) will connect with the U.S. 322 expressway (on U.S. 322, just west of the Narrows). Projected beginning of construction of this connection was scheduled for spring 2000, and completion is planned for fall 2002. Check out the Contractor's website with pictures and PennDOT website for more information.
William F. Yurasko reports, "I have spent a lot of time in Lewistown recently, as my girlfriend lives there. U.S. 322 through there is an expressway that does not meet Interstate standards. Fortunately, the traffic is not all that heavy, so you usually don't suffer from the short deceleration lanes or the at-grade railroad crossing that is seemingly used infrequently by trains. The newly extended U.S. 322 bypass of Milroy is nice -- all concrete -- but highly patrolled. Prior to the new bypass, U.S. 322 through Milroy was slow, it used to take about 10-15 minutes to get through there on a Friday afternoon."
U.S. 322, from Milroy to Potters Mills
According to William F. Yurasko, the existing section of four-lane expressway north of the Milroy bypass is referred to as "Seven Mountains" and is located next to the Laurel Run reservoir. This part of U.S. 322 is not limited access, but it only has one or two intersections. It is a very steep mountain climb, twisting around Laurel Run reservoir. For whatever reason, this segment is always hit hard by the winter. Just north of the reservoir, U.S. 322 narrows to a two-lane section that is very narrow, dark (with lots of trees), and twisty. There have been a few really bad accidents involving trucks, and William considers it to be worse than the Narrows on the other side of Lewistown. Upgrading that to an expressway will provide some engineering challenges, but it is a good idea. This section is not real long, only lasting a few miles to Potters Mills and Junction Pennsylvania 144.
U.S. 322, from Potters Mills to State College
When the above projects are completed, U.S. 322 as an expressway will have only one last gap remaining between Harrisburg and State College. That's the stretch from Potters Mills to State College. PennDOT is currently conducting a needs study (South Central Centre County Transportation Study-SCCCTS) to determine where an expressway link should be built. The planning engineers say they really don't know how the study will turn out.
The notional alternatives are:
- From the stub-end at Potters Mills to the eastern end of the Mount Nittany Expressway (past the Tussey Mountain ski area)
- From the stub-end at Potters Mills to the southern stub-end of the Bellefonte Bypass (over the Mount Nittany ridge near Centre Hall and Pleasant Gap)
- Both 1 and 2.
A preferred alternative will be selected by 2002, with construction proceeding perhaps by 2005. This expansion is really needed. U.S. 322 is a major diagonal route across the center of the state. The truck and car traffic along this route far exceeds the capacity of the two-lane road in this segment. On game days at Penn State, it's a nightmare.
U.S. 322 between State College and Port Matilda will be Interstate-grade, since it is merged with Interstate 99.
Information on this section is available at Pennsylvania District Two webpage.
U.S. 322, from Interstate 99 to Interstate 80
PennDOT has proposed an Interstate connector that would proceed west from the new portion of Interstate 99 at Port Matilda, generally follow the U.S. 322 corridor, pass around Philipsburg, and connect with Interstate 80 at Exit 20 near Needful and Woodland. Along with the Interstate 99 extension, this highway is partially funded by the TEA-21 legislation. For more information, refer to the Corridor O website.
According to Centre Daily Times, on October 31, 2000, PennDot decided not to construct the proposed "southern spur" of Corridor O. This branch was intended to branch off Pennsylvania 53 or Pennsylvania 350 to provide motorists - from Osceola Mills and Houtzdale, for example - with Corridor O access while at the same time reducing through traffic from downtown Philipsburg.
For more information on ARC Corridors, check out the ADHS (ARC Highways) webpage.
As part of the Corridor O project, plans call for a possible Interstate freeway connector from proposed Interstate 99 at Port Matilda northwest to Interstate 80 near the Woodland exit. This may become Interstate 199. Maps of some proposed alternatives for this route are posted at the Corridor O Website, and an article this topic appeared on April 8, 2000, in the Centre Daily Times article "Possible routes for Corridor O shown to public," by Margaret Hopkins.
Corridor 9 in New York State
Once in New York State, Corridor 9 terminates at the U.S. 15 and New York 17/Interstate 86 (Corridor 36) junction. This will provide a limited-access connection directly to Interstate 390, which leads to Rochester.
Some (such as Jason Cali) have suggested that a fanciful extension to Corridor 9 would be northeastward to Corning. This would be accomplished by following New York State Route 17/Interstate 86 from the U.S. 15 junction to Elmira, then north along New York State Route 13 from Horseheads to Cortland via Ithaca. A three-mile section of limited access highway around Ithaca (population 30,000) has already been constructed. NYSDOT and Tompkins County secured funds and the right-of-way to continue the expressway portion to the two intersections of New York 13 and New York 366 (old New York 13.) Other plans to upgrade New York 13 have not materialized.
According to J.P. Wing, "there was an expressway at one time planned to follow what is now New York 13 from Horseheads to Cortland, and that's why the expressway near Ithaca was built, as part of that project. The expressway I'm talking about then continued beyond Cortland towards Utica and ran into the bits of expressway around Utica on New York 8 (to the south) and New York 12 (to the north), and followed New York 12's right of way to Watertown or somewhere up there." This expressway was to be called the Appalachian Thruway ... which is the same name used to refer to the existing section of Interstate 99 in Pennsylvania.
Page Updated July 27, 2003.