PennDOT executive reveals Route 219 timeline

Posted on November 1st, 2012

Daily American (November 01, 2012)

While Tom Prestash, district executive for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation District 9, could not commit Thursday to the completion of Route 219 from Meyersdale south to Interstate 68 in Maryland, he did spell out the timeline for building the segment from Meyersdale north to Somerset.

“We are committed to getting the Meyersdale to Somerset section under construction next year,” he said at the North/South Appalachian Highway Coalition’s annual meeting Thursday at Morguen Toole Co., Meyersdale. The audience applauded his announcement.v

Mining operations on the property will be completed this year. The utilities are being moved and the draft of the final design is out to contractors. No Indiana bats were found in the construction area. The Indiana bat is listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. One small foot bat, a threatened species, was found. PennDOT is still coordinating what to do about that bat. The storm water management permit application has been submitted. One threatened species of fish, the longnose sucker, was found. The state will be asked to minimize the thermal impact on the stream. Mitigation plans will be submitted Tuesday.

“If the permits are awarded in the next several months, then we will go to bid early next year, January or February,” Prestash said. “The pre-bid meeting will be held Jan. 14 to go over the bid package. We are only allowed to cut trees from November through March because of bats. That will take 30 days of work. This will be one of the largest construction projects in Pennsylvania when it is under way. An estimated 10 million cubic yards of earth will have to be moved. We’re very hopeful for good bids. It’s a great time to bid projects.”

The entire 11-mile segment will take about five years to complete. That includes two years for the building of superstructures and one year for paving.

“Construction will begin next year, one way or the other,” Prestash said. “We’re hoping we can get the permits in time to get the trees cut down at the beginning of the year. Over $300 million is already committed for this project.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johnstown, commented on Route 219 following the meeting.

“We can’t understate how important completing 219 will be for our region’s economy and infrastructure,” he said. “Now that the federal government has removed the roadblock holding this project from moving forward, we must continue to push the governor and PennDOT to make this project a priority and move into the construction phase.”

Route 219 is part of the Appalachian Development Highway System corridor. In June the federal transportation bill was passed. It included language to allow the use of toll credits as a state match. Additional language allowed 100 percent federal funding of ADHS corridors. Prestash said PennDOT has asked the U.S. Department of Transportation for clarifications about proceeding on the remaining ADHS corridors.

While the section of Route 219 from Meyersdale south to Interstate 68 is still in the running to be built, only $100 million of the state’s ADHS money will be left after the northern section is built. That segment will also cost an estimated $300 million, with 80 percent of the money to come from Pennsylvania and 20 percent from Maryland.

Greg Slater, director of the Office of Planning and Preliminary Engineering, Maryland Department of Transportation, said Maryland is committed to finishing the project. It is the No. 1 priority highway project for both Garrett and Allegany counties.

“The challenge for us is how to match up to the (Maryland-Pennsylvania) state line and what we can do if Pennsylvania decides not to move forward,” Slater said. “What can we do independently? The challenge is Pennsylvania is the lead state. It is critical for us to have a strong partnership.”

There is no timeline for the Maryland portion of the project, he said.

By Vicki Rock
Daily American Staff Writer