Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced Wednesday the state is going to build the stretch of U.S. Route 322 in Centre County known as the missing link. The project will cost $670 million dollars and will, Wolf said, make “the long-awaited route connection a reality.”
“As they say, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step and that’s what we’re doing here,” Wolf said while making the announcement in a hotel outside of State College where the current two-lane highway runs.
“From a Pennsylvania point of view, on game day State College is third largest city in Pennsylvania. And Penn State is one of the finest universities not just in the world, not just in the country but certainly in Pennsylvania," Wolf said. "We want to make sure we’re connecting Penn State with the rest of the commonwealth and the rest of the United States.”
The project will mean the 13 miles that runs from Seven Mountains to State College will be a four-lane highway, picking up where the current 322 construction project ends. It will also mean reviving a project that had been axed in 2004.
State Senator Jake Corman said getting the funding had been a priority after it was pulled out the first time.
“We sort of begin to feel like Lucy carrying the football," he joked. "Every time Charlie Brown tried to kick it, the ball kept moving.”
Corman noted that this project and the upcoming Interstates 80 and 99 interchange will mean over $1 billion dollars in investments.
“That’s a tremendous economic boom for this community — over a billion dollars’ worth of investment in central Pennsylvania,” Corman said.
Along with the economic benefits, officials pointed to improving safety. The stretch is known for backed up traffic during Penn State home football games and other events, and for sometimes-fatal car crashes.
While making the announcement, Wolf took aim at the federal government for not coming through with funding on the project.
“I can’t tell you how disappointed I am the federal government continues to shirk its responsibility — did I mention the federal government is shirking its responsibility here?” he said, to laughs.
At the time of the initial project, there were strongly divided feelings about where the road should be built. PennDOT officials said there will be a long process before construction even begins.
“I envision going forward that we would have to have a lot of public involvement going forward, because you’re going to have to get buy-in and consensus no matter what alternative we look at,” said Karen Michael, PennDOT district executive.
Local, county and Penn State officials at the event applauded the announcement. Mifflin County Commissioner Robert Postal said industry needs the connections the project will bring.
“You cut the cost of doing business in areas that’s going to lead to economic growth," Postal said. "It’s going to lead to jobs, it’s going to lead to income. And that’s really what we’re doing — cutting the cost of doing business.”
It’s estimated construction will begin in eight years and take three to four years to build. That means it could be finished around 2031.