PennDOT: Funds available for Route 219 engineering

Posted on April 12th, 2014

The Tribune-Democrat (April 12, 2014)

SOMERSET — Work on Phase 1 of the $300 million four-lane Route 219 from Meyersdale to Somerset is back in gear, and the chances of completing the highway to the Maryland state line are looking a little brighter.

PennDOT District 9 executive Thomas Prestash told Somerset County officials last week that the state has come up with funding for engineering work on the 7-mile stretch from Meyersdale to Interstate 68 just across the Maryland line.

McCormick Taylor has been awarded the contract for what was termed preliminary engineering work. The Harrisburg-based company will work in conjunction with Maryland highway officials.

This initial phase of the work is especially important to Maryland because it is ready to go with its end of the work and needs an idea of how the Pennsylvania end will look so the two will match up, said Dave Moe, coordinator of the North/South Highway Coalition.

Moe has worked to apply pressure on Pennsylvania to move forward with the last leg of 219 in Pennsylvania, even as work moves forward on the 11-mile stretch from Somerset to Meyersdale.

Last year, Maryland officials offered Pennsylvania financial help to cover costs of the engineering work – an offer the Keystone State did not accept.

“This is huge for Maryland and Pennsylvania, because Pennsylvania is paying for their portion,” Moe said late last week.

“I think it’s moving along pretty well. They’ve scheduled an awareness-type meeting.”

Beyond money for engineering, no funding has been earmarked for construction, a cost estimated at $250 million Prestash said.

Additionally, Prestash told Somerset officials the federal rules have changed. While engineering money is in place, he said, construction funds must be targeted before environmental review can begin and clearances sought.

In the past, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has required the environmental process – often time-consuming – to be completed before construction funds were earmarked, Prestash said.

As for construction money, Pennsylvania still has some of its Appalachian Regional Commission money, Moe said.

While a large portion is going to a project in the middle of the state, some of the $300 million should be available.

“There is a chunk of money uncommitted,” he said of what could be as much as $150 million. “It depends on the cost of the remainder of the Somerset to Meyersdale project.”

Meanwhile, that portion of 219 under construction is moving into its first full year of work. The Joseph B. Fay Co., of Tarentum, Allegheny County, has the $110 million contract for earthwork.

Phase 2 will be bridges and other structures, with bids to be opened later this year.

By Kathy Mellott