PennDOT has been awarded more than $35 million in federal funding to finally push forward the I-99/I-80 interchange project that's been stalled for a decade.
The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant program. The state Department of Transportation had requested about $45 million from the program.
Tom Zilla, principal transportation planner for the Centre Regional Planning Agency, said he's "very confident" that PennDOT will be able to make up the difference in funds, and he believes the "high priority" project will finally advance.
The estimated $200-million project includes construction of a new high-speed interchange between interstates 99 and 80, a separate local access interchange and Jacksonville Road betterment.
"This is tremendous news for Centre County and the region,” U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, said in a press release. "... This project has been in the works for more than a decade and it will finally move forward. This will have widespread benefits for the region and is a prime example of the good that can come from local, state and federal government working together and in coordination."
The INFRA grant requires that a project be able to go to construction within 18 months of the award — so the local access interchange part of the project will be up first.
The intersection has long been a problem, with interstate and local traffic mixing at intersections that have stop signs. Often there are backups as traffic exits I-80, block the lane of travel on the interstate, especially when there's a lot of traffic (like on football weekends).
Between 2012 and 2016, there were 25 crashes westbound and 19 eastbound, according to PennDOT data.
"The current connection for Interstate 80 and Interstate 99 is prone to back-ups," Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said in a statement. "I am pleased that this project will provide a direct route for motorists to access these two highways."