The proposed Route 219 expansion between Somerset and Meyersdale has been stalled for so long that even taking the rudimentary step of beginning the bidding process will be viewed as a major milestone.
With the project under design and a likely funding source in place, PennDOT hopes it can start accepting bids for the earthwork phase later this year or in early 2013, pending the completion of water management permits.
Clearing and contouring the land for the 11-mile, four-lane highway is expected to cost $160 million.
“It’s going to be rewarding for PennDOT to see the project move forward, but more so for the people in the southern Alleghenies region, and the planning folks, and the chambers of commerce, and the elected officials,” said PennDOT spokesman Dennis Buterbaugh.
“It’s a very important step, I think, in the economic development of the region.”
Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk added, “This is certainly a long-awaited milestone for the residents of Somerset County.”
PennDOT has been able to finally move forward with the project because of changes made in the recently passed federal surface transportation bill. In the legislation, the U.S. House of Representatives dropped language that, in previous bills, prohibited Pennsylvania from using toll credits it had accumulated as its $35 million matching share for the complete project, which is expected to cost more than $300 million. Toll credits are earned by states whenever they build and maintain toll roads without requiring federal assistance.
Two local congressmen, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, and Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johnstown, advocated changing the toll credit policy.
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