The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


March 3, 2013

Long road to fruition

Route 219 north planners must persevere

— After three decades of prodding, supporters of a $300 million extension of Route 219 south from Somerset to Meyersdale are seeing light at the end of the tunnel. In five years, that segment is expected to finally come to fruition.

That obviously has re-ignited a spark in boosters seeking a four-lane extension of the same highway north from Cambria Township to the Clearfield County line.

We share their dream and, like them, know it’s going to be a long, agonizing journey. Route 219 has been dubbed the most studied corridor in the universe. And federal and state highway tax dollars are at a premium, with much of what comes available going toward rehabbing existing infrastructure.

As an example, Gov. Tom Corbett and state legislators currently are bandying about a plan to generate more than $5 billion in transportation funding over the next five years just to address badly deteriorated highways and bridges across the state.

“Our effort will be a corridor plan. We’re looking at the 219 corridor as it exists and the need to develop a plan,” Ethan Imhoff, executive director of the Cambria County Planning Commission, said.

As reported last week by our Kathy Mellott, Imhoff is putting together a task force he hopes will include representatives from the boroughs of Carrolltown and Northern Cambria, the townships of Cambria and East and West Carroll, plus the PennDOT District 9 office in Hollidaysburg.

Getting the ear of our legislative leaders will also be crucial. U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster is chairman of the powerful House Transportation Committee. Our region’s other congressman, Keith Rothfus, has promised to be a willing participant in bringing economic development to the region by way of improved highways, a commitment he made when Shuster was named chairman in November. And state Sen. John Wozniak is Democratic chairman of the state Senate Transportation Committee.

A four-lane highway from Interstate 80 near DuBois to Interstate 68 at Grantsville, Md., continues to be in the dreams of many of us who live in the Cambria-Somerset region.

But as we’ve seen, dreams alone won’t make it happen.

It’s the planning of many, such as those who fought long and hard to apparently, and finally, bring the Somerset-to-Meyersdale Route 219 leg to reality.

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