Corbett responds to Route 219 letter from Maryland governor

Posted on August 30th, 2013

Daily American (August 30, 2013)

Gov. Tom Corbett has called for transportation officials from Pennsylvania and Maryland to meet to develop “an agreeable approach” to completing four-lane Route 219 between Meyersdale and Interstate 68 in Maryland.

In a letter to Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley dated Aug. 22, Corbett said he would like to see the project come to fruition. But he noted that Pennsylvania does not have sufficient funding for its portion of the project.

“Although Pennsylvania does not currently have sufficient federal or state resources to fund construction, I am pleased to assist you in advancing the portion of the project located in Maryland,” Corbett wrote.

He suggested a meeting between transportation department staff from both states.

“We will need to develop a plan that allows for a delayed construction of the Pennsylvania portion of the project,” the letter states.

Corbett was responding to a letter from O’Malley in which the Maryland governor offered the use of his state’s Appalachian Development Highway System funds to pay for planning studies for the full length of Route 219 between Meyersdale and Interstate 68. O’Malley sent the letter in March. His office was closed Friday for a “service reduction day” because of state budget constraints and was unavailable for comment.

Corbett’s brief, three-paragraph response does not specifically address the offer.

“I think it’s a little preliminary to accept that offer one way or another,” Kelli Roberts, Corbett’s deputy director of communications, said in a telephone interview.

Roberts said Corbett is working with the state Legislature to find a more “stable and sustained mechanism” for transportation funding. In February Corbett proposed eliminating the cap on wholesale gasoline taxes as part of a five-year plan to raise more than $5 billion for road and bridge work.

The content of the governor’s letter was greeted favorably by Dave Moe, coordinator of the North-South Appalachian Highway Coalition, which is working to complete Route 219.

“This is great news,” Moe said in a press release. “Just like in football, we are moving the chains forward a little bit at a time.”

Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk suggested using savings from the construction of Route 219 between Somerset and Meyersdale to help fund the second leg of the project.

“The earthwork bid for the 219 section from Somerset to Meyersdale came in about $50 million under budget estimates,” he said in the release. “If PennDOT holds on to that for constructing 219 to Maryland, it represents 20 percent of estimated costs — that’s a great start for a project that could be just a few years out.”

Jamie Legenos, information specialist for PennDOT, said the department is reviewing the project internally to revisit information on traffic counts and environmental impacts.

“We’re committed to assisting Maryland in the completion of their portion of the project; however, our coordination will have to allow for delayed construction due to the current economic situation we’re facing,” Legenos wrote in an email. “Once we’ve made an assessment of the project details internally we will reach out to Maryland’s Department of Transportation to coordinate project details.”

By Brian Schrock
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