SOMERSET — Route 219 is rising from the dead.
Just three weeks after state officials declared that completion of the highway essentially had been scrapped, the state Legislature reversed course today, budgeting $35 million for the long-awaited road.
It will be enough money to initially match $46 million in federal funding, although local lawmakers will continue to push for changes in the federal funding formula.
"I like to think we snatched victory from the jaws of death," Somerset County Commissioner Jimmy Marker said today in an impromptu Independence Day press conference at the end of the four-lane highway in Somerset Township.
Late Thursday, a state Senate committee approved the $35 million budget allocation following a week of intense behind-the-scenes lobbying.
The funding can be used to leverage more than $175 million in federal funds for the highway, said state Sens. Richard Kasunic, D-Dunbar, and John Wozniak, D-Johnstown.
The full House and Senate were expected to act on the budget as soon as this afternoon.
As the state has wrestled with its budget for the past week, commissioners orchestrated a last-minute blitz to have the $35 million included in a $350 million PennDOT bond issue.
The pressure came from all sides: Gov. Ed Rendell; Kasunic and Wozniak; state Reps. Bob Bastian, R-Somerset, and Tom Yewcic, D-Jackson Township; U.S. Reps. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, and Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg; state Sen. Arlen Spector; and Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Rob Gleason of Johnstown and former GOP chairwoman Eileen Melvin of Somerset.
"This is akin to a Hail Mary legislative pass,"ù County Commissioner Chairwoman Pamela Tokar-Ickes said.
Three weeks ago, PennDOT said a $9 million, 20 percent match to federal funding has been removed from the list on projects in PennDOT's 12-year plan.
That decision was the apparent death knell for 35 years worth of effort to complete the four-lane highway from Somerset to Interstate 68 in Maryland.
SOMERSET — Route 219 is rising from the dead.
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Halfway house inmates can ease back into society
Prison life can be a time warp.
When inmates are locked away – for months, years, decades – society moves forward: Technology evolves, major events occur, pop culture changes. From a personal perspective, families and friends live their lives: weddings, funerals, graduations, births, retirements. All the while, criminals bide their time, existing in a regimented world of cement walls and metal bars.
Almost all of them eventually rejoin society, though.
Crime board took aim at house
Johnstown’s unemployment rate is around 8 percent.
One-third of the city’s population lives in poverty.
Burglaries and assaults significantly increased between 2010 and 2012. There is a thriving illegal trade in heroin and prescription drugs.
Given those conditions, it can be challenging for Johnstown Community Corrections Center residents to find jobs when living in the facility or to avoid falling back into a criminal lifestyle upon their release.
Homicides linked to center
Three homicides that took place in Johnstown last year involved either a suspect or victim who previously resided in the Community Corrections Center.
Police Chief Craig Foust confirmed the name of one victim, who spent almost two months in the facility on Washington Street during 2007, a time period verified by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
Volunteers helping to spruce up community
Walls and ceilings inside the Cambria County Library look clean and bright with fresh new coats of paint on them.
The work was recently done by inmates from the Johnstown Community Corrections Center.
Hartzok targets income disparity
Alanna Hartzok described herself as being a conservative progressive.
The Franklin County resident said she is in favor of conserving environmental resources, education opportunities, Social Security and Medicare, while wanting to progressively address wealth inequality, health care and taxation.
Schools rise to leadership challenge
Forest Hills and Cambria Heights high school students put the spirit of healthy competition toward a good cause and picked up some lessons in leadership along the way.
Student’s photos win awards
A Forest Hills High School junior has captured several awards in a high school arts and writing contest that has identified greats such as Truman Capote and Andy Warhol.
JIM SIEHL | Music to my ears
Seldom has $15 produced such a high level of entertainment as it did a few weeks ago when I found myself in the second row just left of center keeping back the tears once again during my third live performance of “Les Miserables.”
Bye, bye, Easter birdies
Animals fascinated my mom. Riding the train between Johnstown and Philly, she saw horses, pigs, sheep, cows … a Mattel See ’n Say of farm critters.
Travelogue of terror features Johnstown area
A historic week will surround the venerable Silver Drive-In come the beginning of May.
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