State College Area Connector Project

“Through the place, we renew the spirit of the people. Historic preservation can be the underlying basis of community renewal, human renewal, and economic renewal. Preservation is not some isolated cultural benefit.”
— Arthur P. Ziegler, Jr., President and Co-founder, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

Upcoming Meetings and Information:

LArch 414 Student Presentations
Held on Thursday, December 1, 2022, 6:00 P.M. to 8:30 P.M.
@ Centre LifeLink in State College

​Please join the Penn State landscape architecture students who have been studying the US Route 322 corridor as they present their strategies to reconsider the highway project in Penns-Brush Valley.  You’ve had an opportunity to meet them at public meetings and the charrette design workshop—now you can see their collective ideas to address historic character, habitat, context sensitive solutions for highway design and more. All are welcome.​


PennDOT Resources:

State College Area Connector Project

The three recommended alternative routes recently announced by PennDOT are 322-10EX, 322-IS, and 322-5. Click on the “SCAC GIS Interactive Map” button below. You will be able to click on the layers icon on the upper left-hand side of the page and see where the routes overlay more clearly.


Past Related Programs:

Designing the Future: Exploring Options for 322 and Penns-Brush Valley

Dan Marriott, PhD., Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, Penn State
Sunday, October 30, 2022
@ Harvest Fields-Calvary Church, 150 Harvest Fields Dr, Boalsburg

The Centre County Historical Society and Hamer Center for Community Design are sponsoring a design charrette in partnership with the Department of Landscape Architecture at Penn State to explore alternative design options for the proposed State College Area Connector.  Rather than focusing on the proposed routes, the charrette—a focused workshop—will engage interested organizations and residents in developing a broader vision for the future of the highway corridor and valley. In addition to the many different safe roadway design options available for 322—beyond a limited-access freeway—the charrette will consider the opportunities such a project can offer to unite rather than divide the communities of the valley.  

Using examples from Pennsylvania and other states, the charrette will explore traffic calming measures, pedestrian and bike access, programs to help sustainable farming, and recreation and wildlife corridors designed to minimize the negative impacts of 322. The afternoon will allow you to work closely with neighbors and experts to consider options for the future. Penn State landscape architecture faculty and students will be available to help you envision and record your ideas.

The result will be a specific list of community goals to not only influence the proposed design of 322, but also establish clear design expectations for safe multimodal transportation, planning and economic development, and heritage and land conservation.

Dan Marriott, PhD, is an associate professor of landscape architecture at Penn State. He has advised transportation agencies across the United States on how they might address community needs and values in project design. Dan is teaching an upper-level studio course this fall using the State College Connector Project for his students to engage further with community members in developing context-sensitive designs.

This program is supported in part by the Jaqueline J. Melander Society named in honor of CCHS President Emeritus, Jackie Melander, who was a driving force behind the preservation and restoration of the Centre Furnace Mansion and long-time advocate for historic preservation in Centre County.

PRESS RELEASE

History is an interpretive art, based on available evidence. Accordingly, the interpretations are, at times, controversial and contested. The Centre County Historical Society strongly supports freedom of speech and the First Amendment rights of our speakers, authors, and writers. The Society does not necessarily endorse or support all views, conclusions, and opinions expressed, yet believes they merit entry into the marketplace of ideas and the scrutiny it affords.

PennDOT State College Area Connector Project Public Meeting
Held on Wednesday, October 19 and Thursday, October 20, 2022, 5:00 P.M. to 8:30 P.M.
@ Mount Nittany Middle School in Boalsburg

Envisioning the Future: Creative Approaches to Transportation Corridors 

Presentation by Dan Marriott, PhD., Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, Penn State  
Held on Wednesday, September 14, 2022 at 7:00-8:30 p.m.
@ Centre LifeLink EMS, 125 Puddintown Road, State College, PA
Program Press Release
Program PDF
A recording of this presentation will be made available on this page. Please check back.

Harris Township and Potter Township Joint Meeting:

Held on October 4, 2022, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Boalsburg Fire Hall to discuss the State College Area Connector Project and its potential impact on both townships. The purpose of the meeting was to hear from residents from both communities and to identify points that can be drafted into a joint letter to PennDOT.

As plans progress and public meetings are scheduled, we will update this page. To subscribe to the CCHS e-newsletter for programming and updates, go to the bottom of this page and click on “SIGN UP FOR OUR EMAIL NEWSLETTER.” For questions or more information, contact Mary Sorensen at msorensen@centrefurnace.org.



Project History

The State College Area Connector Project is a large highway project in Centre County that will pass through the Penns-Brush Valley Rural Historic District. There are a variety of routes being considered for connecting Rt. 322 where it ends at Potters Mills Gap, to Interstate 80. At this stage in the Connector Project, PennDOT is working to select a small set of candidate corridors for detailed engineering and assessment.  PennDOT has announced that it will release its recommendations in late September or October.  These recommendations will be reviewed by relevant agencies with an expected announcement about the final set in December.  

PennDOT proposals to build highways in our area have emerged since the 1960s. The Centre County Historical Society has had a voice in all of these discussions, as part of our mission to collect, interpret, preserve, and promote Centre County’s cultural and natural heritage. We feel that members of the public and organizations such as CCHS can and should be involved in the process so that it is done in the least damaging way possible, is sensitive to historic, cultural, and natural resources, and documents any resources that may be lost.

The following is some background highlighting CCHS’s role in area highway projects.

In the 1960’s, PennDOT began the US Rt. 322 bypass project around State College. Without a years-long grassroots effort on the part of the community and CCHS at that time, the Centre Furnace Mansion would have been demolished.

Beginning in the 1980s, further Rt. 322 transportation projects were proposed by PennDOT as part of a larger goal to link Harrisburg to State College and Interstate 80. CCHS, along with other county organizations such as Clearwater Conservancy, and the Bald Eagle Archaeological Society, were invited to serve as commenting parties. President Emerita Jackie Melander and Cecelia Rusnak, a CCHS board member and Landscape Architecture Professor at Penn State, represented the Historical Society.

 Between the 1990s and early 2000s, Rt. 322 was enlarged and rerouted from Lewistown to just east of Potters Mills. There was much controversy surrounding further proposed extensions of the highway and the impacts they would have on our area. CCHS organized a series of public meetings to give residents an opportunity to express their concerns. In addition, CCHS and the Penn State Landscape Architecture Department invited a nationally renowned landscape architect, Grant Jones, to speak about context sensitive design for these types of projects. He and his firm successfully modified plans for traditional large highways and redesigned them as scenic roadways and wildlife highways, considering them a vital form of green infrastructure.

During this period, CCHS also undertook a significant years-long effort to submit a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places for Penns/Brush Valley Rural Historic District. The district covers eight townships, from College and Harris to Miles and Haines, and includes approximately 1200 historic resources. It is possibly the largest rural historic district left relatively undisturbed in Pennsylvania and is therefore unique. Jackie Melander and Penn State History Professor Emerita, Sally McMurray, wrote the nomination. In 2002 the district was listed as eligible for inclusion in the National Register. This gives the area an added layer of protection and can help to soften the effects of development, but does not prevent projects from proceeding.

In 2012 the next portion of Rt. 322, the leg through Potters Mills Gap, was settled on as the solution with the least environmental, historical, and archaeological impact. CCHS attempted to lessen the damage resulting from the highway by identifying significant resources in the projected path. It also supplied the information that PennDOT used to create a digital STORYMAP to tell the story of Potters Mills in its larger context in Penns Valley. Of course, mitigation efforts cannot replace what is lost – a historic community, a viewshed, a historic farm or woodlot, a neighborhood.

 As planning is underway for the newest proposed highway project, community members and organizations that value the preservation of the area must be a part of the conversation. How can we all work toward a common goal of preserving the character of this historic landscape?

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and PennDOT have a partnership through called ProjectPATH to better communicate about historical, archaeological and environmental resources that should be taken into consideration when planning a transportation project.  Community members and organizations that value the preservation of historic, archaeological and natural resources must be a part of the conversation.

Questions to consider:

  • How will the State College Area Connector Project affect the Penns-Brush Valley Rural Historic District?  A detailed evaluation and inventory of its esthetic, environmental, cultural, and social impacts on this unique and relatively pristine region is critical.
  • What is the best possible solution that is the least harmful? Are improvements to the existing Rt. 322 to make the road safer being considered to adequately complete the project versus overbuilding this highway? At one point, the idea of a Mount Nittany Parkway was raised to select the direct route and separate the traffic.