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April 17, 2013

Route 219 at top of wish list: Local leaders seek north improvements

JOHNSTOWN — Route 219 north improvements through Carrolltown and connecting near Sunset Road to Route 36 and Mahaffey represent the top priority for local business and government leaders shepherding the Johnstown Area Transportation Study.

Members of the study committees will present the list to state Transportation Secretary Barry J. Schoch during the Regional Transportation Committee’s luncheon and briefing on Friday at the Holiday Inn – Downtown.

“We have to make sure what we are communicating to the Legislature coordinates with the feelings of this group as well as the county planners,” said committee Chairman Thomas Prestash, PennDOT’s District 9 executive.

“We want everyone speaking the same language.”

Members of the committee’s technical and coordinating committees placed the extension of Route 219 four-lanes to Interstate 68 in Maryland as second on their list of priorities during a combined meeting Wednesday at CamTran headquarters,

726 Central Ave.

“We have to be supportive of the Route 219 south project, but we need a project in Cambria County,” said committee member Robert Layo, president of Greater Johns-town/Cambria County Chamber of Commerce.

“We don’t want to have the projects competing with each other, but it is safe to say in Cambria County Route 219 north is the No. 1 priority.”

It will not be easy to secure an estimated $30 million funding for the Sunset Road improvements, said Vincent Greenland, committee member and assistant Penn-DOT district executive.

The work includes straightening some curves and reducing some hills to improve safety. The current plans call for a “modern two-lane highway,” and not a four-lane, limited access expressway such as the proposed Route 219 south project to Meyersdale.

Funding is in place for the Somerset-Meyersdale connection, Prestash said, adding that construction will be starting there within the next few years.

But the federal Appalachian Development Highway System fund was eliminated in the latest transportation bill, he warned.

“The other portion of Route 219 south (from Meyersdale to Maryland), we have no identified funding stream,” Prestash said. “It is all part of one pot now, so they are all competing.”

Rounding out the priorities list included in the latest committee update are Route 56 east from Windber to Route 99 in Bedford County and Route 56 west improvements to help truck traffic through Johns-town’s West End. The Route 56 west plan includes improvements to Route 403 in Cambria County and Route 711 in Indiana County to encourage trucks to select that alternative.

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