Route 219 meeting sought; Somerset leaders want to hear from PennDOT

Posted on October 23rd, 2012

The Tribune-Democrat (October 23, 2012)

SOMERSET — Plans to expand and improve Route 219 from Meyersdale to the Maryland border have, at least for a little while, moved into the slow lane.

PennDOT has preliminary designs in place for the work.

But another Route 219 stretch on what is called the Appalachian Development Highway System has clearly been the top priority during the past few months. The bidding process on that northern section of road, from Somerset to Meyersdale, is expected to begin within the next few months.

The Somerset County commissioners, though, want to make sure the southern part is not forgotten in the overall project. On Monday, the board decided to send a formal letter to Gov. Tom Corbett and Penn­DOT requesting a meeting.

“I’m confused,” said Commissioner Pamela Tokar-Ickes. “My impression was that PennDOT, the state of Pennsylvania and Governor Corbett certainly understood that that would be the missing link and had indicated to us that there would be forward movement on that.”

Fellow Commissioner John Vatavuk added, “We’re trying to keep them focused on the project. We just want to make sure they keep it on the front burner.”

Project manager Greg Illig said, for now, PennDOT is concentrating on getting the first section out to bid.

“Then we’ll take the opportunity to regroup and see (about the southern section),” Illig said.

Work on the project picked up in the summer when changes were made to federal highway legislation. New rules allow states to use toll credits as matching funds on ADHS projects.

Also, states can now cover their costs with 100 federal funds. In the past, the split was 80 percent federal, 20 percent state. The policy switches were made to help development along the highway system, which connects 13 states from New York to Mississippi.

Locally, the improvements would be made to part of a chain connecting Route 219 to Interstate 68 in Maryland and then Route 220, which links to what is called Corridor H on the system.

Any delay in the Meyersdale-to-Maryland work could impact the entire project.

“Maryland is so fed up with PennDOT’s reluctance that Maryland is moving ahead, as we speak, and talking with the federal highway department about moving ahead without PennDOT to do their portion from (Interstate) 68 to the Pennsylvania line,” said North/South Appalachian Highway Coalition coordinator Dave Moe. “What that does for PennDOT is that they don’t have any say where this is going to hit the state line. For me, if I was a Pennsylvania citizen, (I would think) that would be irresponsible conduct on the part of them.”

By Dave Sutor
The Tribune-Democrat
dsutor@tribdem.com