The southern end of the four-lane section of U.S. Route 219 in Meyersdale is shown on Nov. 4. (John Rucosky/Johnstown Tribune-Democrat photo)
A $53 million boost in highway funds has been committed by Pennsylvania legislators to carry the U.S. Highway 219 project through its final design in the coming years — one of the few major hurdles remaining to get the effort to construction in 2028.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said the dollars, approved April 20, will "accelerate" the highway's four-lane expansion from the Meyersdale Bypass to the Maryland line.
"The people of Somerset County have fought for decades to complete the several-mile strip between Meyersdale and the Maryland border, and thanks to the infrastructure law, we are one step closer to making that a reality," said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, an early proponent of President Biden's federal infrastructure bill.
The Johnstown (PA) Tribune-Democrat reported that state Sen. Patrick Stefano (R-Fayette), and Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Wayne Langerholc called Pennsylvania's financial commitment a key step toward creating a "huge economic driver" for the area.
Langerholc (R-Richland) added that the federal Appalachian Highway Development System (AHDS) funding will complete essential pre-construction activities and continue to promote the project's benefits to secure more monies for the construction of what he described as a "critical corridor."
PA Section of Highway Has Been Years in the Making
The U.S. 219 segment is the final 5.5-mi. piece awaiting completion for the project designed to link Johnstown, Pa., to Maryland. City officials have spent decades working toward the milestone, the Tribune-Democrat reported.
The often-stalled effort received new life last fall with the passage of the Biden administration-led Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA), which included guaranteed highway funding for Pennsylvania and the AHDS that encompasses part of U.S. 219.
"The bipartisan infrastructure law is making significant progress possible across Pennsylvania," said Yassmin Gramian, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). "This investment also shows the commitment to growing and supporting our rural economies and transportation system."
The Johnstown newspaper noted that the final phase of U.S. 219 is currently halfway through a preliminary design period that will outline possible routes for the project as well as undertaking certain environmental clearances.
The project previously received $6 million in Appalachian Program Development funds, along with $17 million from the federal government.
PennDOT officials and state lawmakers said they have worked in the months since to ensure the project could continue through to its next steps. That will include mapping a final route and buying the land rights to build it through rural Somerset County.
Project Benefits Outweigh the Costs
In 2020, the final design phase was originally estimated at less than $45 million, according to the Tribune-Democrat.
State Rep. Carl Walker Metzgar (R-Somerset) expressed his disappointment that the project has become so expensive, but he told the news source the completion of the U.S. 219 is of the utmost importance "because of the economic and transportation benefits" it provides.
"I am simply thrilled to keep the project moving in the right direction," he remarked.
Earlier in April, PennDOT officials said that they are planning public meetings this summer to gather feedback on proposed routes to Maryland.
Federal lawmakers in January announced $55 million in funding for Maryland's part of the project, enough to finish the last section of the highway in that state from Old Salisbury Road at Grantsville to the Pennsylvania line.
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