Another four-lane segment of Route 219, just south of the Pennsylvania line, is expected to be finished by the end of the year – six months ahead of schedule, Maryland highway officials said Thursday.
Weather depending, less than two2 miles of new limited access highway extending Route 219 from Interstate 68 toward Somerset County could be complete by the end of December – signaling the second stretch of upgrades along the corridor in the past three years.
It’s also the only section funded for such progress – but Somerset County officials said the forthcoming milestone is an achievement they hope will build their case toward the eventual completion of the final, unfinished 5.5-mile segment between Interstate 68 and the Greater Johnstown region.
“This is a multi-state project. And anything Maryland does helps strengthen our position for the completion of the highway in Somerset County,” President Commissioner Gerald Walker said Thursday.
The latest segment of the road is in line to open ahead of schedule is “leverage” for further support, he added.
‘A lot going on’
Both state and federal officials’ budget plans have been focused on COVID-19 costs in 2020.
But Somerset County officials and leaders in Western Maryland have been laying groundwork to make a strong case for future support for the project, Walker said.
Earlier this year, Somerset County hired two lobbying groups to win support for the Route 219 project – Pendulum Strategies and South Carolina-based Nelson Mullins, whose roster contains Ron Klink, a Somerset County native who served as a congressman in Pittsburgh’s suburbs in the late 1990s.
Walker said the “Corridor N” feasibility study, which was started late in 2019, will be complete in the coming months to offer a picture of what a completed Route 219 would mean to Pennsylvania.
Maryland just finished a “Benefit-Cost analysis” on the western Maryland region portion of the highway – “and now that we have those two studies, we can give that information to the consultants we have on board to start making our case,” Walker said.
The process would begin by lining up meetings with state transportation officials in both state, he said.
“Things can’t be in-person right now. But we do have a lot going on right now with Route 219,” Walker said.
Work that is nearing completion remained underway this week in Garrett County, Maryland, approximately 55 miles south of downtown Johnstown.
“We’re in the homestretch,” said Maryland State Highway Administration Administrator Tim Smith.
The $63 million project, which includes on- and off-ramps near Granstville, Maryland, will extend the highway to Old Salisbury Road, approximately a mile south of the Pennsylvania line.
“The (Maryland Department of Transportation) anticipates being able to open some or all components of the project as soon as the end of 2020,” spokeswoman Sherry Christian said in a statement to The Tribune-Democrat.
While the department looks forward to celebrating the achievement with the community, stakeholders and elected officials, that would likely be COVID-19 guideline dependant, she said.
Maryland officials aren’t planning to complete the final mile of highway until Pennsylvania has chosen a route for its final segment.
Walker said it will cost approximately $6 million to complete a preliminary engineering study necessary to determine that route.
“There are a lot of federal sources (of funding) out there. And we’re going to rely on our consultants to look outside the box to find it,” he said. “Because that study is needed to get the project back on the (state) Transportation Improvement Program schedule.”