On the road again: 2016 sees major construction projects

A new bridge has been constructed over Route 322 in Potter Township in the Seven Mountains area for what will be a new interchange.
A new bridge has been constructed over Route 322 in Potter Township in the Seven Mountains area for what will be a new interchange.

With the coming of summer comes the road construction season — a period marked with orange signs, detours and the potential for traffic backups.

Several major road projects are slated to start in Centre County this summer, some involving road closures and detours. Centre Region Planning Agency principal transportation planner Tom Zilla broke down the upcoming projects for the Centre Region Council of Governments General Forum on Monday.

In the end, there will be a lot of good improvements made for the benefit of our residents.

Principal transportation planner Tom Zilla

While the projects will cause some disruptions in travel, he said, “In the end, there will be a lot of good improvements made for the benefit of our residents.”

Waddle Road interchange

Work has already started on the Waddle Road interchange in Patton Township, Zilla said, located at Exit 71 along Interstate 99. A number of trees have been cut down in preparation to convert the three-lane bridge into a six-lane bridge.

Bidding began on the project in October, he said, and construction is expected to wrap by fall 2017. The new bridge will feature side-by-side left turn lanes. The westbound exit ramp will be widened as well. The bridge will also be raised to meet height requirements.

According to earlier reports regarding the construction, the existing bridge will remain open to traffic, preventing the need for a detour.

Warner Boulevard/ Boalsburg Road

Scheduled to begin in the coming weeks, a section of road spanning both College and Harris townships will be closed for reconstruction.

The section of the Boalsburg Pike from Mary Elizabeth Street to the U.S. Route 322 eastbound on-ramps will be closed starting April 11, Zilla said, as the entire road is going to be rebuilt. The lanes will be brought together, he said, eliminating the grass median and creating a 7-foot-wide path on the east side for walking or cycling.

The road will remain open between the westbound on-ramp and Linden Hall Road, he said, so drivers can continue to access 322 in that direction. PennDOT will post detours along the expressway, which will remain in effect until the road is reopened around Memorial Day.

“The main point of all this is we will now be able to connect Oak Hall Park with these areas on this side of the expressway,” he said.

The second part of construction will involve Warner Boulevard between Mary Elizabeth and South Atherton streets, he said. The grass median will be narrowed, and a 7-foot-wide path will be added on the east side. While construction is expected to be completed by fall, the detour around Warner is only expected to last a week.

All construction along this area will be closed down during Arts Fest week, he said.

Summer projects

The bridge along East Branch Road near Country Club Road in College Township is slated for replacement this summer, restricting passage along East Branch to South Atherton Street.

The section of road will be closed for about four weeks during July and August, Zilla said, requiring drivers to detour around the route. Country Club Road will also be closed for about two weeks, as the road is being brought down to meet East Branch in a T-shaped intersection.

A left turn lane onto Country Club will be added to the road, he said.

A second bridge replacement is also scheduled in the village of Julian, he said, as the small bridge along Railroad Avenue will see replacement starting in the summer. A detour will be in place from June to August, he said, diverting drivers down the Julian Pike and into Patton Township.

Finally, while not in the Centre Region, Zilla said, the Sand Mountain Road interchange along Route 322 in Potter Township will begin to see serious work starting in the summer.

Zilla referenced the “bridge to nowhere” — an overpass along 322 coming into Centre County that has no roads leading to it. The bridge is slated to become part of the new interchange during the second phase this summer.

The intersection of Sand Mountain across 322 will be removed, he said, with ramps leading to new roads connected to the bridge. The interchange will now be the way drivers cross 322, he said.

The project is expected to be completed by fall 2017, Zilla said.

The next section of the project, slated for early 2017, he said, will involve the highest cost and take the most amount of time. Priced at just less than $100 million, the new highway leading into Centre County is expected to be completed by fall 2019.

A new four-lane highway will be built starting at Decker Valley Road, around the nose of the mountain to another full interchange outside of Potters Mills, Zilla said. At that point, the road will transition back to a two-lane road.

The existing road will be kept as a local access road, he said, with the new highway being built as a stepped highway into the side of the mountain.

There has been no discussion of expanding the rest of routes 322, 144 or 45 at this time, Zilla said.

“There’s a lot of interest in making some sort of a connection ... through this area,” he said, “but I want to emphasize that there’s no funding allocated, no design activity underway and no schedule for advancing designs.”

While a planner for the Centre Region, Zilla said, a majority of the planning was associated with the Centre County Metropolitan Planning Organization — a group of elected and appointed officials, along with the state Department of Transportation, responsible for long-range planing and the allocation of state and federal funds for road and bridge projects.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews