AP NEWS

Four-lane Route 219 to be finished this year

February 19, 2018

After five years of construction, the 11 miles of four-lane Route 219 between Somerset and Meyersdale should soon be open to public travel.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation project manager Thomas Helsel said the project is on track and should be completed by late summer.

Helsel said all but 2 miles of road — starting at the Buffalo Creek Bridge in Brothersvalley Township and ending at Pine Hill Road near the Meyersdale interchange — has been paved, with additional work to resume this spring.

Other work, such as painting, wetland work, fencing, lighting and signage, will also be completed. He said work on the project was halted in early January by winter weather.

“It’s going way better than I thought a project between $100 (million) and $200 million would go,” he said during a January tour of the project with a Daily American reporter. “I think it’s a project where everybody wants the project done, and it helps.”

It, he said, is the largest road construction project in the history of PennDOT’s 9th District. The project also contains the district’s highest bridge, with the Buffalo Creek Bridge reaching about 220 feet tall. For perspective, the McNally Bridge near the Somerset and Cambria County line is about 190 feet tall. District 9 includes Somerset, Cambria, Bedford, Blair, Huntingdon and Fulton counties.

The corridor will feature two interchanges: one at Mud Pike in Brothersvalley Township and another near Meyersdale. There will also be four emergency crossovers, Helsel said.

As for the remainder of the roadway from Meyersdale to Maryland, Helsel deferred comment to another PennDOT employee, saying he only currently handles construction of the 11-mile corridor. He did, however, opine on the matter.

“I really hope they get the rest of it built. It just makes sense,” he said. “But PennDOT can’t do anything without money — unless someone gives us money.”

He recommended talking to Greg Illig, project manager for that portion of the road, about the progress to Maryland.

Illig said that so far there is no funding in place, no completion date and no final pathway for the remainder of the roadway, which is about 6 miles.

The plan, which has previously been reported to cost between $200 million and $300 million in Pennsylvania, is to connect 219 with Interstate 68 in Maryland. The study cost about $2 million and was paid with Pennsylvania and Maryland funds.

Illig, however, cited a 2016 study identifying possible routes for the road as putting the project in a “strong position to move forward should funding be identified.”

“A schedule for design and construction would be developed once funding is identified,” he said in an email.

As far as funding goes, Somerset County is losing a powerbroker next year in the nation’s capital. In January U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, announced that he will not seek a 10th term in office.

Shuster is chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

When asked if the congressman’s retirement is a concern, Illig said, “We will continue to look for all funding opportunities.”