Local reps take case for 219 to governor’s office

Posted on April 12th, 2012

Representatives from three counties met with Gov. Tom Corbett’s staff Wednesday to discuss the progress of completing Route 219 from Meyersdale to Somerset

Daily American, Somerset County

Kathleen Duffy Bruder, deputy chief of staff to Corbett, Jim Ritzman, deputy secretary for planning for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and county commissioners from Somerset, Cambria and Garrett County, Md., attended the meeting. Staff from the offices of state Sens. John Wozniak and Richard Kasunic attended as well as representatives from the North/South Appalachian Highway Coalition.

“We were making our case, as we try to do all the time to get 219 built,” Glenn Miller, an executive committee member of Continental 1, said.

The Continental 1 corridor is a proposed 1,500-mile direct route from Toronto to Miami intended to develop business growth and faster, safer travel. The organization’s current goal is to complete Route 219 from New York through Pennsylvania.

Highway construction projects are typically done with 80 percent federal funding and 20 percent state funding. Previous highway bills allowed the use of toll credits as the state match. Pennsylvania earned credits when it used toll revenues earned on the Pennsylvania Turnpike for improvements to the turnpike. That was eliminated in the 2005 transportation bill.

Completion of the remainder of Route 219 gained momentum in March when the Senate passed a two-year transportation bill with provisions for the use of toll credits as a state match for highway construction projects. The bill would also make all Appalachian Development Highway System projects 95 percent federally funded for the next two years.

The House version of the transportation bill, however, has not been passed.

“The congressmen can’t agree on what the bill should include,” Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk said. “We’re very confident that the toll credit language is going to be included in the next transportation bill, and we want to make sure that we’re the first ones there with our hand out, making sure we get our share of the money.”

Henry Cook, who serves on the Continental 1 board of directors, said he is pleased to see representatives from Cambria and Somerset counties working together to promote the project’s completion.

“We have really fine allies from Johnstown. The commissioners from Garrett County (Maryland) were there as well as the commissioners of Somerset and Cambria counties. This is really now a more regional focus on this project. We’ve been in communication with Continental 1 on this project, and I think that registered well with the governor’s office,” he said.

A meeting of the North/South Appalachian Highway Coalition will be held at 9 a.m. April 26 at Somerset Trust Co. in Meyersdale to discuss progress of Route 219.