“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:
Strategies for the Proposed State College Area Connector in Penns-Brush Valley
Students from the Department of Landscape Architecture in the Stuckeman School at Penn State LARCH 414 studio class in the fall of 2022 used PennDOT’s State College Area Connector project as their case study after a semester working with Dr. Dan Marriott and numerous organizations and individuals including the Centre County Historical Society. The compilation of these presentations is available in the downloadable PDF below as a resource to help inform comments to PennDOT by community members and organizations as the project proceeds and offers opportunities for community input. We extend our gratitude to Dr. Marriott, Fall 2022 LARCH 414 students and all who contributed for their research and thoughtful work in compiling this document:
Penn DOT Updates and Resources
State College Area Connector Project
The deadline for the 30-day public comment period for the Draft PEL Report was on March 19, 2023. PennDOT will address the comments received and provide responses to the comments as part of the Final PEL Report which will be provided to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for their acceptance. The Final PEL Document will also be provided to the cooperating agencies and made available to the public. This is anticipated to be completed by May 2023.
All comments should be submitted electronically to Dean Ball, PE at Deball@pa.gov or in writing to PennDOT District 2-0, 70 PennDOT Drive, Clearfield, PA 16830, Attn: Dean Ball, PE.
Three recommended alternative routes were announced for further study by PennDOT at their October 2022 meeting. These routes are 322-10EX, 322-IS, and 322-5 and are visible on the the “SCAC GIS Interactive Map” by clicking the 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 and efforts:
Article from the Hamer Center for Community Design
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
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
Centre County Historical Society’s comment after the October 2022 SCAC PennDOT public meeting
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Penns-Brush Valley Rural Historic District National Register Nomination
- What is a Rural Historic Landscape?
- Farmland Preservation in Centre County, A map of farmland conservation easements in Center County
- Save Cedar Run, Advocacy group of residents in the communities along Cedar Run in Brush Valley preserving the history and historic landscape in Cedar Run Valley.
- No Route 45 Connector, a citizen advocacy group against the Rt. 45 connection to the SCAC
- Centre County Metropolitan Planning Organization, (CCMPO), Federal law requires a process for transportation planning. This is required for any urbanized area based on a population over 50,000 as designated by the U.S. Census. The focus is surface transportation. They are a liaison between local officials, PennDOT, and U.S. DOT. The public is invited to be involved by attend monthly meetings and stay up to date on Centre County transportation plans.
- A Citizen’s Guide to Section 106
- Submit your Comment to PennDOT
- PennDOT Project and Meeting Materials, Understand the alternative routes and road types currently under consideration.
- What is a PEL study?
- ProjectPATH, SCAC page: PATH is an online tool for public involvement and public education for cultural-heritage resource management issues and efforts at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. In 2010, PennDOT partnered with Preservation Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth’s only statewide, private non-profit, membership organization dedicated to the protection of historically and architecturally significant properties, to create PATH.
- A Journey to Potters Mills, A story map that gives a brief history about Potters Mills and the surrounding area. #1 shows the boundaries and individual resources for the Penns/Brush Valley Rural Historic District.
- US DOT, Federal Highway Administration, Learn about environmental impacts of highways.
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.