Officials meet to discuss advancement of north-south route

Posted on October 16th, 2010

By Katie Walker

The North/South Appalachian Highway Coalition met on Thursday to discuss the advancement of a corridor linking the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Interstate 68 and Corridor H in West Virginia — a project intended to increase trade opportunities and create thousands of new jobs in the Appalachian region.

Officials from Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia met at the Meyersdale Community Center to share efforts being made to obtain funding and accelerate progress on the corridor, known as the North/South Appalachian Highway.

Leading the discussion were Kim Leonard, chairman of The Greater Cumberland Committee, and committee executive director Colleen Peterson. Leonard is also president of Aircon Engineering in Cumberland, Md.

“From an economic standpoint, this project impacts us in a way that perhaps nothing else can,” Leonard said.

A 2001 feasibility study — co-sponsored by the Maryland State Highway Administration, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Virginia Department of Transportation and the West Virginia Department of Transportation — determined that aligning routes 219 North and 220 South in northern Maryland would have the greatest economic impact in Appalachian areas of all four states.

An updated study found that advancing both routes could reduce travel time for drivers, increase local and state tax revenue, decrease highway accidents and result in the creation of 11,000 permanent jobs.

Alliant Techsystems Vice President Keith Funkhouser said he thinks that highway improvements will allow his company — the largest defense contractor in West Virginia — to expand and deliver military products more quickly. Alliant Techsystems employs about 1,500 employees in West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania and is expected to grow to 2,100 employees over the next eight years….