Commissioner to represent county at corridor conference

Posted on October 24th, 2010

By Tiffany Wright

Somerset County will be represented during a trade corridor conference in New York tomorrow in an effort to bring more awareness to the completion of Route 219.

Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk will attend the conference, hosted by Continental 1, an alliance working toward the completion of a 1,500-mile travel corridor between Toronto and Miami.

“My hope is to get 219 as part of the corridor into the spotlight more,” Vatavuk said. “The whole effort is to make sure we got our money to finish our section.”

Local leaders have stressed the importance of completing Route 219 from Somerset to Meyersdale and on to Interstate 68 in Maryland.

Officials have said the corridor would create jobs, provide travel convenience, allow better highway safety and increase tourism and trade opportunities.

“Just north of Somerset there are all those beautiful bed and breakfasts that people can’t visit because tour buses can’t get there. This road would increase tourism,” said Meg Lauerman, project manager for Continental 1. “Plus, parts of 219 in the winter between Interstate 80 and Somerset are treacherous. This would make safer highways. It would also mean jobs. It really is an economic development project.”

Vatavuk said it is important to discuss Route 219 and make sure the community’s voice is heard.

“We need to make sure we stay in the forefront and keep this fresh in people’s minds,” he said. “We can’t let it go away because if we do it will. We have to keep this up on the front burner and not let it slide to the back burner — or off the stove.”

Vatavuk and Colleen Peterson, executive director of the Greater Cumberland Committee, will make a presentation Monday morning regarding the status of Route 219 in the area. The area corridor is known as the North/South Appalachian Highway.

The conference will also highlight successful and unsuccessful roadway projects as well as public and private measures for the development of multi-modal corridors.

“This is really about building coalitions between the states,” Lauerman said. “But Continental 1 is not just a multi-state issue, it’s a binational issue.”

Of the 1,500-mile corridor, roughly 259 miles of roadway need complete. The majority of those roads are in New York and Pennsylvania, Lauerman said.