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Welcome to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation District 2-0 virtual public meeting for the State College Area Connector Planning and Environmental Linkage (PEL) Study.
Below, you will find various stations. Each station has narration specific to the boards displayed. Click on a board image to view it larger.
You will also find a fact sheet (PDF) that you can use as a quick reference for key study information. There is also a glossary of terms (PDF) that may help you as visit the various stations of this virtual public meeting.
Americans with Disabilities Act
This meeting is being held in accordance with state and federal regulations, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Americans with Disabilities Act. Public participation is encouraged and solicited without regard to race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, or family status.
Persons wishing to express their concerns about Title VI may do so by contacting either the Bureau of Equal Opportunity located on the fifth floor of the Commonwealth Keystone Building, Harrisburg, PA., by telephone at 717-787-5891 or 800-468-4201.
Large-scale transportation projects advance through a five-phase process before they can be used by the traveling public. Each phase includes public outreach.
The first phase is a Planning and Environmental Linkage (PEL) study. A PEL Study is a high-level planning effort that considers the environment, community, and economic goals early in the planning process to facilitate informed transportation decision making. This step results in identifying alternatives to advance as future projects into preliminary engineering and environmental studies.
The second phase is Preliminary Engineering and Environmental studies that satisfy the National Environmental Policy Act, which is often referred to simply as NEPA. This phase analyzes traffic, safety, environmental and economic data to develop project specific alternatives which minimize impacts. The information allows the Federal Highway Administration and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to prioritize and plan future transportation improvements.
Once the preliminary engineering and environmental studies are complete, a project enters the third phase, which is Final Engineering Design. During this phase, construction plans are developed.
If a project cannot be constructed within existing legal right of way, the project will have a Right-of-Way acquisition phase. During this fourth phase, PennDOT will negotiate with the landowner for the purchase of additional right-of-way necessary to construct the project.
The last phase is construction of the project which is the result of the planning and design phases. By following the process described, the finished project will successfully address the purpose and need for transportation improvements, while minimizing impacts.
A Planning and Environmental Linkage study is a high-level planning approach to transportation decision making that considers the environment, community and economic goals early in the transportation planning process and provides flexibility in developing and evaluating alternatives prior to traditional project specific environmental and engineering investigations. PEL studies encourage early involvement with the public and regulatory agencies to be more effective in making transportation-related decisions. Overall, PEL studies help to expedite project schedules by identifying and reducing the number of alternatives to be advanced for more detailed environmental study and engineering design. To best view this board, we recommend downloading so that you may zoom in to better read the detailed text.
State College Area Connector PEL Process Board
There are 7 Steps to complete the State College Area Connector Planning and Environmental Linkage Study. Step 1 collects environmental, engineering, and traffic data to provide a foundation for use in future steps. Step 2 analyzes the collected data to identify the challenges on the existing transportation system. Step 3 documents transportation challenges by developing purpose and needs statements that will be used to identify a Range of Alternatives to be evaluated in Step 4., which analyses the alternatives to determine the benefits they provide to the transportation system and their associated impacts which will be presented at the next public meeting. Step 5 identifies alternatives to advance for further evaluation in future environmental and engineering studies. Step 6 documents the results of the PEL study and develops an implementation plan for future studies or projects. Step 7 finalizes the PEL and receives study concurrence from the Federal Highway Administration.
Specific public meetings are anticipated during step 4 in the spring of 2021 where we will show alternatives being considered. A third public meeting will occur during step 6 in the winter of 2021 where we anticipate presenting the draft PEL Study results. Public input can also be provided at any time during the study on the website at www.PennDOT.gov/SCAC on the Get Involved tab.
Environmental Data was collected within the study area to provide a foundation for developing future alternatives that would minimize natural, cultural, agricultural, social, and community impacts while meeting the purpose and need for the project. For this study, environmental data was collected from existing sources and compiled into a computer database that generated maps. The Agricultural Resources figure highlights lands that are actively farmed as well as farmland that is included in special protection programs. The Natural Resources figure highlights the water features, vegetation, species, and other naturally occurring resources. The Cultural Resources figure documents the structures and properties that have been determined to be historic and are either listed in the National Register of Historic Places or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The last figure in the Environmental Resource section is Social and Community Resources. This figure documents the location of features such as parks, emergency service facilities, schools, and other human-made facilities.
The study area is primarily rural with many productive farming operations interspersed with small villages. Productive farmland makes up over a third of the land use with about 60% within Agricultural Security Areas and 13% preserved in Agricultural Conservation Easements. Agricultural Security Areas are intended to protect farmland by prohibiting municipalities from enacting laws or ordinances that would unreasonably restrict farming practices. An Agricultural Conservation Easement is a deed restriction that a landowner voluntarily places on their property to keep the land available for farming. The study area also includes small areas of farmland placed in the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. These areas are primarily farmland along streambanks that farmers leave fallow for a period time to conserve the highly erodible land and protect the waterways. The diversity of the agricultural practices is demonstrated in the different operations, including dairy operations, beef cattle operations, horse farms, crop operations, vineyards, tree farms and nurseries. The Grange Park in Centre Hall that has been hosting the annual Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair since 1874, serves as a long-standing symbol of the agricultural history of the area.
Natural resources extend from the forested ridges down across the Penns and Nittany Valleys. There are two primary watersheds, Spring Creek and Sinking Creek, as well as multiple smaller streams, including Cedar Run, Potter Run, & Gap Run, that drain the study area. Most of the streams are protected as High-Quality resources and several streams support wild trout. High Quality streams have quality which exceeds the levels necessary to support the reproduction of fish, shellfish, and wildlife and recreation. There are also numerous wetlands, ponds, floodplains, and Natural Heritage Areas that provide ecological benefits for the region. Natural Heritage Areas are exemplary ecological communities that support rare plants or animals and Pennsylvania’s native species biodiversity. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy was the principal investigator for the Centre County inventory. The inventory does not bestow protection on the areas but rather provides a tool for informed and responsible decision-making related to land development and conservation decisions.
Above Ground Historic Resources
Historic resources are found throughout the study area. PennDOT identified 16 properties and six historic districts that are eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, including the large Penns Valley and Brush Valley Rural Historic District. PennDOT will research other buildings, properties, and areas to determine if there are other eligible historic resources within the study area that need to be considered. Ultimately, PennDOT will look for ways to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to the historic resources. To best view this board, we recommend downloading so that you may zoom in to better read the detailed text.
The initial study area extends across six different municipalities, including the Borough of Centre Hall and Potter, Harris, College, Benner, and Spring Townships. Numerous villages are also found in the study area including Pleasant Gap, Linden Hall, Boalsburg, Tusseyville, and Fruittown. The study area includes numerous recreational facilities, including parks – many with athletic fields, state forests, and designated bike routes. There are numerous schools, places of worship, cemeteries, and other community facilities scattered throughout the area. While the western end of the study area is more developed with several modern residential subdivisions, the area has many productive farms. Amish communities are also located nearby to the east and north of the study area in both Penns Valley and Nittany Valley. These features all contribute to the local diversity of the area. To best see this board, we recommend downloading so that you may zoom in to better read the detailed text.
The Annual Average Daily Traffic or AADT is the total number of vehicles traveling in both directions, that use a roadway segment on a typical day. A portion of that traffic volume is trucks which is known as Average Daily Truck Traffic, or ADTT. Within the study area, US 322 carries between 13,000 vehicles and 15,400 vehicles per day (VPD). US 322 also serves as a major east-west truck route, with truck traffic accounting for between 20 and 32 percent of the total traffic volume. This far exceeds the statewide average of 7 percent for trucks on roadways like US 322. Traffic volumes on PA 45 range from 7,800 VPD to 11,700 VPD depending on the location, with trucks accounting for 12 to 17 percent. Although not as significant as the truck traffic utilizing US 322, the truck percentages on PA 45 are almost double the statewide average for similar roadways. PA 144 traffic volumes range between 5,400 VPD and 10,700 VPD with truck percentages averaging 15 percent: however, truck traffic is restricted between Centre Hall and Pleasant Gap due to a 10-ton weight restriction over Mount Nittany. Between 2017 and 2050, overall traffic volumes throughout the region are anticipated to increase by 27 percent; however, truck traffic is anticipated to increase at an even higher rate of 31 percent.
Motorized Level of Service
Level of Service or LOS is a quantitative performance measure that represents the quality of service being provided along a roadway or at an intersection. The measures used to determine LOS for transportation systems are defined by six levels of service, ranging from A to F. LOS A represents a roadway that has no congestion and has good operating conditions from a traveler’s perspective. While LOS F at the other end of the scale represents the worst operating condition and is very congested. Typically, roadways are not designed to operate at the best LOS during rush hour, but instead provide a lower LOS that balances costs and other impacts. Currently, US 322 between Potters Mills Gap and Boalsburg and PA 144 between Center Hall and Pleasant Gap operate at unacceptable LOS. In the Design Year (2050), conditions will continue to deteriorate on these roadways, and portions of PA 45 are expected to operate at unacceptable LOS. The remaining portions of PA 144 anticipated to operate at a marginal LOS.
Bicycle Level of Service
Bicycle Level of Service (BLOS) is a nationally used measure of a bicyclist’s comfort level using roadways based on the roadway's geometry and traffic conditions. Their comfort level is determined based on various roadway conditions, in order of importance: width of the outside travel lane and shoulder, motorized vehicle volume, motorized vehicle speed, truck volumes, and pavement conditions. The roadway conditions are ranked and scored in order of importance to create an overall BLOS score which is converted to a BLOS grade. Generally, BLOS grades ‘A’ and ‘B’ are considered comfortable for most adults. BLOS ‘C’ is comfortable enough for more experienced adult cyclists. BLOS D, E, and F are generally not comfortable for bicyclists travel. Currently, within the study area, the BLOS for US 322, PA 45, and PA 144 are at BLOS D or below with most of the roadway segments operating at unacceptable BLOS scores of E or F. Generally, these roadway segments are not comfortable for bicyclists largely because of the narrow lane and shoulder widths, high truck volumes, high travel speeds, and pavement conditions. In the Design Year (2050), the BLOS will continue to decrease along all study area roadways. It is important to note that BLOS is NOT a safety analysis but only highlights a bicyclist’s comfort level on roadways relative to various roadway factors. Bike trails have been identified in the study area, including PA Bike Route G that uses Brush Valley Road. Sections of PA 45 in Potter Township and Harris Township have also been identified as a bike trail to connect local road trails.
A Highway Safety Manual (HSM) analysis was completed for the Base Year of 2017 and Design Year of 2050 to evaluate the safety performance of the existing roadway network. The HSM provides analytical tools and techniques for quantifying potential effects of crashes based on decisions made during the planning, design, operations, and maintenance process. Like how the Highway Capacity Manual (HCM) evaluates how design elements impact operations, the HSM evaluates how design elements impact safety. The overall results of the analysis for each corridor within the study area shows that there is not an overall safety need. However, when evaluating the roadways by individual segment and intersection, there are sites where safety improvements have the potential to reduce crash frequency.
An Origin-Destination or O&D study for short, evaluates travel patterns along a roadway or
roadway network. The study provides an understanding of where travelers are starting and
ending their trips and determines if the trips are:
- Internal or Local trips, meaning the trips start and end within the study area
- External or Through trips, meaning the trips start and end outside the study area
boundaries and are generally referred to as regional trips
- Mixed trips, meaning the trips have mixed starting and ending points with either the
start or end of the trip, but not both, located outside the study area. For example, a
typical mixed trip would include traveling from outside of the study area to an
employment location in the Boalsburg or State College area or someone living within
study area and traveling to an employment location outside the study area.
The O&D study evaluated traffic patterns along US 322, PA 45, and PA 144. For purposes of
analysis, passenger vehicle and truck trips were evaluated separately.
Results of the O&D study on US 322 indicated that 82 percent of all truck travel is regional trips,
or they start and end the trip outside of the study area, compared to only 26 percent of
passenger trips. Regional travel also accounted for 51 percent of all truck trips and 35 percent of
all passenger trips along PA 144. Along PA 45, regional trips accounted for 47 percent of all truck
trips and only 12 percent of passenger trips.
When looking at mixed trips or trips that start or end within the study area, there are clear
differences between truck and passenger travel. Along US 322, mixed passenger trips account
for 70 percent of all US 322 passenger trips, while only 17 percent of truck trips are mixed. Along
PA 144, mixed passenger trips account for nearly 45 percent of the passenger trips, and PA 144
truck trips only account for 33 percent of the mixed truck trips.
PA 45 has more local travel than either US 322 or PA 144 accounting for nearly 28 percent of
passenger trips. Conversely, PA 45 only had 12 percent of trucks making local trips. Local trips
along US 322 were relatively low and account for only 4 percent of passenger trips and 1
percent of truck trips. PA 144 had 20 percent local passenger trips and 16 percent local truck
These O&D results show that on the key transportation corridors, there is an overwhelming
number of passenger vehicles and trucks that are using the roadways to access areas beyond
the identified study area. This mixing of local and regional trips can create additional pressure
and burdens on a roadway network that was not specifically designed for that type of travel,
and can also create conflicts due to stopping and turning movements associated with the local
travel versus the non-stop travel generally associated with regional trips.
Based on the environmental, community and traffic information you have reviewed this evening, the transportation needs for the area have been identified as
- High peak hour traffic volumes cause congestion and result in unacceptable levels of service (LOS D [rural only], E, or F) on US 322, PA 45 and PA 144 roadways and intersections within the study area.
- Existing roadway configurations and traffic conditions contribute to safety concerns in the study area.
- The roadway network and configuration in the study area lacks continuity and does not meet driver expectations.
These needs define transportation issues and their root causes which are to be address in support of the study purpose statement. The need is the foundation for the study purpose statement. The purpose of this study is to develop and evaluate a range of alternatives to improve mobility and meet interstate and regional through traffic and local needs by reducing congestion, addressing safety, and improving system continuity within the study area while accommodating other modes of traffic (bike, pedestrian, horse-and-buggies, farm equipment traffic, and public transit) where appropriate, and supporting regional land use visions and goals.
Thank you for joining us for our first virtual public meeting. We hope your visit was informative. The next steps for the PEL study will be to assess public comments received from this meeting and finalize the purpose and needs for transportation improvements in the area. Once the purpose and needs are finalized, we will initiate the development and evaluation of a range of alternatives and be back in the spring to get your input on the next step in the PEL process.
The official comment period for this meeting will end on November 11, 2020 so please provide your comments, by using the link to our online survey or downloading the comment form and mailing it to PennDOT. Again, thank you for attending and we welcome your comments.
Copies of all the meeting materials, including handouts, boards, and narration scripts are also available on PennDOT’s website at: www.PennDOT.gov/SCAC If you have specific questions, please include your contact information and we will get back to you shortly. Thank you again for your time and input!