Upgrades to routes 219, 56 in Pennsylvania pushed

Posted on July 17th, 2014

Cumberland Times-News (June 19, 2014)

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Leaders from across Cambria County, continuing to look for ways to improve access to Johnstown and the northern half of the county, are asking the state to remember Route 219 north of Ebensburg and Route 56 east of Windber.

Members of the Johnstown Metropolitan Planning Organization met Wednesday to establish priorities for projects that it wants included in the 4-year update of PennDOT’s 12-year plan.

Leaders also learned that Prospect Viaduct improvements are back on the schedule and planned for next year.

“The number one priorities are 219 north and 56 east,” said Chris Allison, head of transportation planning with the Cambria County Planning Commission.

Also high on the list is improvements to Route 711 in Indiana County, a highway that feeds traffic into Cambria County and Johnstown.

“The general consensus is to look for ways to improve access to Johnstown,” Allison said.

The recommendations developed by the panel, whose membership includes the county planning commission, city officials, county transit authority and airport authority, PennDOT and county commissioners, will be forwarded to PennDOT’s central office in Harrisburg. The list likely will be made part of the plan set for approval later this year by the state Transportation Commission, Allison said.

The list of priorities is updated every two years.

Chances of seeing a four-lane highway north of Ebensburg to the Clearfield County line and a bypass around Pleasantville on Route 56 to Windber were dashed a decade ago because of cost concerns.

Despite the 2013 adoption of a transportation bill to raise more than $2 billion for road and bridge projects – an estimated $600 million more statewide this year alone – county officials are pressuring the state for safety improvements to the north-south and east-west corridors.

Work on the Peggy Westover Curve on 56 in Bedford County is key to improving the trip from Johns-town to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Allison said.

Money also is needed for work to the north with a proposal to improve Sunset Road, a secondary artery linking Carrolltown to the Patton area.

If funded, the project would include improvements such as curve straightening, shoulder repairs and highway stabilization for Route 36 north to the county line near Westover.

The goal is to pull truck and other through traffic from Route 219 at Carrolltown onto an improved 36, officials said.

Safety improvements also are proposed for Route 219 and Route 553 where the two intersect south of Carrolltown.

With the additional funding, which will increase over the next several years, PennDOT is able to expand its focus from substandard bridges to highways, according to Vince Greenland, District 9’s assistant executive for design.

“With the additional funding, we’re trying to have a little better balance between highways and bridges,” Greenland said Wednesday.

Back on the radar screen is the viaduct linking downtown Johnstown to the Prospect area, Greenland said.

The project, to include dams and all the seals on the deck surface and minor substructure repairs, was delayed two years ago when residents objected to a proposed lengthy detour.

The $3.5 million project, set to be bid in early 2015, will be done using signals and reducing traffic to one lane, Greenland said.

“It will cost a little bit more and take longer, but we still have to do the project,” he said.

The structure is 706 feet long and crosses railroad tracks and the Stonycreek River. It was built in 1987.

Funding for the viaduct will come largely from SPIKE money, funding from the state that is beyond the district’s construction allocation.

Work on Dellwood Street, which PennDOT had earlier proposed as part of the viaduct project, will instead be part of work on the Haynes Street bridge set for 2015, Greenland said.

From Kathy Mellott
Cumberland Times-News