The U.S. House met last week’s deadline to pass the $100 billion-plus federal surface transportation bill, and highway supporters are ready to start moving dirt toward completion of Route 219 from Somerset to Meyersdale.
“I’d say it’s show time,” Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk said Monday.
Brenda Smith, executive director of the Greater Cumberland (Md.) Committee, which has worked in unison with Pennsylvania organizations for completion of Route 219, referenced her Facebook posting.
“I think we actually may see this in my lifetime,” she said on her social media page.
Congress’ final measure included much sought-after repeal of language preventing Pennsylvania from using toll credits it has accumulated as its $35 million share of the $350 million Route 219 project.
Toll credits are earned by a state for every dollar spent building and maintaining toll roads without federal assistance. The Pennsylvania Turnpike has been a toll credit source for state matches to federal funds for years, but a change in the language in 2005 ended that practice.
In the works for several years has been an 11-mile four-lane, limited-access stretch of highway linking the four-lane 219 that runs to Johnstown and north to Ebensburg and replacing a winding, dangerous two-lane.
The bulk of the project will be funded with part of the half-billion dollars in Appalachian Development Highway System money Pennsylvania has been holding on to since 2005 because the state lacks the matching funds. The funds can be used only on specific highways designated through congressional action several years ago.
Design work is completed along with right of way and utility relocation. Awaiting approval are three water management permits with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Environmental Protection to weigh in, said Dave Moe, coordinator of the North/South Appalachian Highway Coalition.
Those permits likely will take about four months for approval, which would open the door to bid the project in late 2012 with construction in the spring 2013 season, Moe said.
Still up in the air is designation by the state of the ARC highway money to the Somerset-Meyersdale stretch of 219, Vatavuk said.
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