PennDOT: Bids for 219 will be sought by early 2013

Posted on August 23rd, 2012

Daily American (August 23, 2012)

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is finalizing the necessary permits and other documents needed before it seeks bids for the excavation work to build Route 219 from Meyersdale to Somerset.

PennDOT District 9 executive Thomas Prestash said the contract will be advertised late this year or early next year.

“We’re getting the final packages together,” Prestash said in a telephone interview Thursday.

The entire project for the four-lane road is expected to cost in excess of $300 million. PennDOT press secretary Dennis Buterbaugh said the earthwork portion of the project will cost about $160 million. The cost will be paid 100 percent by the federal government because of the recently signed federal transportation bill.

“That was the vital step,” Prestash said. “The project was a no-go before that happened. It was at a standstill. That was monumental.”

Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk said another vital step was the inclusion of Route 219 in the state Transportation Commission’s 2013 plan. All three components are in the plan: earthwork, bridges and roadway construction.

“That’s extremely important,” he said. “If it’s not on the plan, it doesn’t get done.”

There isn’t a complete timeline yet for construction. When Vatavuk was at the fair in Meyersdale earlier in the week, people told him that they don’t believe Route 219 will be built. Others said they will believe it when they see it.

“I understand their frustration. It’s been delayed for so long,” he said. “But it is going to be built.”

The federal Transportation Department announced on Aug. 17 that almost $29 million in federal earmarks will be returned to Pennsylvania. Prestash believes that all Route 219 earmarks have already been spent. Since the project is 100 percent federally funded, that $29 million isn’t needed for Route 219.

The district executive isn’t sure if the final segment of Route 219 in Somerset County, from Meyersdale south to Maryland, is included in the bill allowing for 100 percent federal funding. Pennsylvania transportation officials have started a dialogue with Maryland officials because part of the highway is in Maryland.

“Obviously, this is such a great project for our region. I’m anxious to open bids,” Prestash said.

Maryland state Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Grantsville, said that state has $98 million in reserve for the segment from the border to Interstate 68. But if Maryland’s governor doesn’t commit to building it in the next two years, that $98 million will be lost to another project.

“We have people working hard on this,” Edwards said in a telephone interview. “We have a good relationship with Pennsylvania. We hope to get it on track.”

In addition to the 2 to 2 1/2 miles of roadway, Maryland would have to build one bridge and one interchange.

“If Pennsylvania can build 11 miles for $300 million, I don’t think it would cost much more than $98 million for our section,” he said. “It would be a big help if it were 100 percent federally funded, but we need this highway. Route 219 would be as beneficial as a road can be.”

By Vicki Rock

Daily American