Letter to Baltimore Sun re: US 219 Project in Garrett County

Posted on December 28th, 2018

Dear Mr. Rodricks:

On behalf of the members and stakeholders of Continental 1 – the 3-state advocacy group working to complete US 219 –  I write in response to your Dec. 14 editorial, “Larry Hogan’s $61.5 million ‘nowhere’ highway project gets underway in western Maryland.” As you might imagine, we see things quite differently.

You raise a very thought-provoking question in your piece – how can a project “remain a priority for decades,” and it seems that the question itself suggests the answer. It’s no secret that rural highways and bridges are not election winners. Away from population centers, they are not at the top of very many elected officials’ agenda. Which, we suspect, is why Congress has had such a difficult time getting rural highway funding into an infrastructure funding bill. Yet, to the people of the communities surrounding them, infrastructure investments such as the Route 219 Realignment Project represent critical improvements to safety, mobility and access. Whether it’s protecting our families on the road, strengthening supply chains, or attracting new jobs to the area, the condition and efficiency of our road network is pivotal.

How can a project remain a priority for decades? Because it’s important enough that it outlasts decades of elected officials who chose to direct infrastructure funding toward higher-profile, election-winning projects.  

Last month, just 20 minutes north of the intersection you’re addressing, PennDOT opened the brand new 11-mile section of US 219 – a project that had “remained a priority” since the 1970s. It has invigorated the community, and has built the foundation for economic growth in Somerset County. Leadership in Harrisburg and locally understood that an initiative that stays relevant for that amount of time is, in the end, worth the investment. We’re thankful to Governor Hogan for feeling the same way.

We understand, though, that your perception may be a common one among folks in the more populous areas of the state. Even though we weren’t fans of your take, we appreciate your bringing up the topic, and opening the door for discussion. We hope to host you in Garrett County again in 2019.

Thank you.