Route 219 expansion waiting for governor’s approval

Posted on May 2nd, 2012

WJAC-TV (April 27, 2012)

SOMERSET COUNTY, Pa — It’s taken 13 years for the Route 219 expansion project to get funding and permits. Now, a bill that would start construction is close to being passed, pending Gov. Tom Corbett’s approval.

The project is being called a regional coalition, and at a meeting on Friday, leaders from West Virginia, New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania said they’re not giving up on the bill.

Leaders said the Route 219 expansion would boost the regional economy and getting it under way is their No. 1 priority.

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“From Buffalo to Miami, this piece is an integral piece that needs to be completed so people can handle the goods and services that will run between the corridors,” said David Moe, North/South Appalachian Highway Coalition coordinator.

Some people said the movement began more than 40 years ago, with residents emphasizing the importance of the highway’s expansion. What makes the project in Pennsylvania unique is that it will affect other states. Even Canadians are in support and are trying to obtain more funding for the project because the construction will eventually make its way that far up north.

As of Friday, project organizers are waiting for a six year, $35 million commitment from the governor. Once that’s in place, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation can start the project as soon as possible.

Somerset County commissioner John Vatavuk said the project boost the economy by creating jobs.

“We estimate 2,400 to 2,600 jobs once this is constructed to (Route) 68 in Maryland, and there will be 8,000 or 10,000 construction jobs which will help a lot, too,” Vatavuk said.

Leaders said the project is a top priority. Of all of the highways in Pennsylvania, it is the only new highway construction project that is further ahead than any other.