The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

December 8, 2013

‘Right on track’: Fall weather favorable for Route 219 project

— The region’s weather this fall hasn’t always been pretty.

Think below normal temperatures, rain and even a little snow.

But that’s “contractor weather” for the crews working on the Route 219 expansion project between Somerset and Meyersdale, said Tom Helsel, a Penn-DOT assistant construction engineer overseeing the work.

“We’re right on track with the first phase of this project – and in some areas ahead of schedule – thanks to the weather we’ve had,” said Helsel, noting crews have lost only a day or two of work to inclement weather since work officially started Sept. 16.

Pittsburgh-based Joseph B. Fay Co. has been working in southern Somerset County since September on the

$110.4 million first phase of the 11-mile Route 219 project to build a four-lane link from Somerset to the Meyersdale bypass.

Scheduled to run into fall 2016, the first phase involves clearing the path for the highway – miles of excavation, ditch digging and pipe installation, Helsel said.

“There’s been a lot of earth-moving in the southern part of the county,” Helsel said, adding that crews have to take steps to minimize erosion.

Much of the work has focused just north of the Meyersdale bypass near the Fogletown Road area, Helsel said, although crews also are clearing a path near the Mud Pike intersection.

Controlled blasting has occurred in areas where rocky conditions make earthmoving too difficult for construction equipment, Helsel said. Some has occurred near Golf Course Road and Fogletown Road near Garrett.

“They’ve been pretty busy down there,” Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk said Tuesday. “They’re pretty much going 24-7 on that project.”

Helsel said a crew of approximately 85 workers was at work last week. Contractors have them split into three shifts that run four days a week.

“As more clearances come in and other parts of the project open up, the number of workers is going to keep growing,” Helsel said.

While the first phase of the $370 million total project isn’t expected to wrap until fall 2016, Helsel said the second phase is scheduled to begin before that, tentatively late next year.

Most of that work will involve building the bridges needed to carry motorists over waterways and difficult terrain. Helsel said the second phase will initially involve preliminary legwork, such as ordering steel beams that must be fabricated before crews can begin installation.

If all goes as planned, the road would open to traffic by 2018, state officials have said.  

Work continues to secure funding for the remaining stretch of highway through the Salisbury area to the Maryland border.

Meanwhile, officials in western Maryland are moving through the planning phases to connect a four-lane highway from Interstate 68 to the state line.

Three routes are being studied, all near the Grantsville, Md., area. But traffic studies need to be updated before the planning process can move forward, a highway project manager told officials at a Frostburg State University meeting in October, the Cumberland Times-News reported.

David Hurst is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/tddavidhurst.

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