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State Rep. Owlett pushes for I-99 designation in Tioga County

What’s in a name?

Quite a bit, at least from an economic standpoint, according to an area lawmaker pushing to officially designate portions of Route 15 in his legislative district as Interstate 99.

Now, state Rep. Clint Owlett, R-Wellsboro, wants PennDOT to come through.

“Having the interstate designation would open up so many opportunities for growth in our region,” he said. “We’ve met all the standards necessary to be named an interstate — we just need PennDOT to petition the federal government to make it happen. PennDOT needs to quit dragging its feet and move this process forward.”

Owlett said he is awaiting a report with a Sept. 30 deadline from the state agency to include a list of routes between the northernmost portion of I-99 in Pennsylvania and its southernmost portion of the highway in New York that will comprise the highway once it is fully designated. The report is to include as well a summary of issues preventing portions of the highway from qualifying for an interstate designation.

He said Route 15 has already met all the qualifications for being designated as an interstate highway.

Interstate highways, he noted, are meant to be contiguous which is not the case with I-99.

“New York State applied and got the designation,” he said. “You get to Tioga County and you aren’t on an interstate anymore.”

Owlett said he has already inserted language in the state’s annual fiscal code legislation requiring PennDOT to address the state of the road, including providing a timeline.

“When a business is looking to expand, they want to be on an interstate,” Owlett said. “Businesses want to be along an interstate. My plea is to get it done.”

He lamented the past lost opportunities for economic development along the corridor.

Owlett said while he’s aware it will likely require more than the PennDOT report to bring about the official interstate designation, he remains hopeful that forcing the agency to“fully assess the status of this vital economic development initiative will help spur the actions necessary to get the job done.”

A PennDOT official was not available for comment for this story.

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