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PENNDOT and Game Commission close to a deal on Interstate 99

Another hurdle in the state’s plan to bring Interstate 99 in Blair County to completion may be leaped over as early as next week as talks between the state Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania Game Commission continue.
According to PENNDOT District 2.0 public relations director Marla Fannin, Game Commission officials and engineers of PENNDOT are close to an agreement that would allow PENNDOT to build the Interstate 99 highway through 68 acres of game land along the Bald Eagle Ridge in Northern Blair County.
“The Game Commission may have something to present to the public at a series of public meetings scheduled for next week,” said Fannin this morning. “We are hopeful there will be a positive outcome in this matter.”
Fannin said if an agreement is reached, the PA Game Commission would exchange a 68-acre parcel of land along the ridge for property elsewhere. The location of the exchangeable property was not disclosed.
“There’s not a lot of information we have concerning any type of agreement strictly because everything is being handled by our legal department,” Fannin said.
Fannin, did say however, that PENNDOT would not be able to purchase the land outright from the Game Commission, noting that only an exchange of land could take place.
Bidding was opened recently for the approximate eight-mile stretch of highway. The apparent low bid for the earthwork for the project referred to by state officials as the 220 C-10 project was from Trumbull Corporation, which is based out of Pittsburgh. The bid equaled $59.87 million. The group has less than 30 days to provide the usual required and necessary paperwork in regards to the contract. After the paperwork is submitted, PENNDOT should be able to give them the notice to proceed.
“The entire I-99 corridor, which would take you from Bald Eagle to the interstate outside of Bellefonte should be open in 2007,” said Fannin.
George Khoury, engineer for the project, was unavailable for comment.
“The biggest advantage to the areas surrounding the project is, to a great degree, economic,” said Fannin. “We’ve had some wonderful legislative support in regards to the reason why the project is coming through the area. Eventually you’ll be able to travel from the Pennsylvania Turnpike into Breezewood then on to Interstate 80 by ways of Interstate 99.”
One potential road block was avoided this week when Governor-elect Ed Rendell endorsed the plan to support the “ridge route”.
“I don’t think the lawsuit will be much to worry about because I don’t think (the Game Commission) going to want to look as if they want to oppose Ed Rendell, since he has the powers of his office to appoint members of the commission,” Rep. Rick Geist told the Associated Press earlier this week.
Wednesday in a prepared statement, Rendell said, “If I had been involved in the project several years earlier, it is quite possible that I would have pursued an alternative way to connect the Pennsylvania Turnpike with Interstate 80. But the advantages of other routes do not … outweigh the disadvantages of considerable time delays and massive additional expenditures necessary to abandon the current course of action.”