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Kettle interchange discussed again

An Altoona councilman asked Tuesday if the city should revisit the idea of a Kettle Road interchange for I-99 if a federal transportation bill passes.

Councilman Bruce Kelley suggested that his colleagues begin to consider how they may spend money from a proposed $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which is awaiting action in the House of Representatives.

Specifically, Kelley asked whether it would make sense to revisit a proposal for an I-99 interchange at Kettle Road, given that the infrastructure bill might provide the funds to do it.

“Does this present us an opportunity to look at it again?” Kelley asked. “Is it a good thing?”

The idea for an interchange at Kettle was “kicked around,” then “deferred,” but never formally “deleted,” Kelley said.

The section of I-99 that would have contained the Kettle interchange was completed in 1994, said Dave Ellis, a council candidate who attended the meeting.

PennDOT deferred the Kettle interchange from its plans in 1986, according to a 1989 Mirror editorial.

It was estimated to cost

$12 million at the time, according to the editorial.

A study completed in 1989 by the Blair County Planning Commission and Penn State’s Transportation Institute “reaffirmed” the decision to defer the interchange, finding that, with a few improvements to the existing connecting highways, there would be little increase in congestion resulting from omitting the interchange, according to the editorial.

Thus, “the conclusion of the study was that there will be no need for such an interchange, at least for the rest of this century,” the editorial stated.

The Kettle interchange would have been about 1.5 miles north of the now-existing 17th Street interchange, the northernmost of three Altoona interchanges in a 2.5-mile stretch. The next interchange is at Pinecroft, about 7.1 miles away.

The original plans for the interchange called for creating a “crosstown artery” from what is now I-99 to Chestnut Avenue, which would have allowed for a connection to the downtown, according to a separate 1990 Mirror article.

Omitting the Kettle connection was a relief to some local people who worried about the extra cost for the interchange and the relocation of homes and businesses that it would have been required, the editorial stated.

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