A Johnstown area lawmaker has been picked to head the state Senate Transportation Committee.

It makes state Sen. Wayne Langerholc Jr., R-Richland Township, the majority chairman of an influential committee tasked with identifying, steering and sorting Pennsylvania's transportation issues and priorities – at a time the region is pushing to complete Route 219 to Maryland and add a second Amtrak passenger route to Pittsburgh.

Langerholc has been a vocal advocate for both moves – and now will have a bigger voice.

"Transportation is such a vital component of our Commonwealth. And from the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Route 219 and Interstate 80 to the train station and Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, there are tremendous economic development opportunities for our region," he said. "I'm confident the 35th District will benefit from this opportunity."

The Richland Township Republican replaces now-state Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, earning the chairmanship in just his second term.

That's an uncommon feat, Concurrent Technologies CEO Edward Sheehan Jr. said.

Langerholc already served a year leading the Senate education and technology committees.

With his latest appointment, it shows Langerholc is distinguishing himself among his peers in Harrisburg – and that's important for the region, too, Sheehan added.

"When we hear 'transportation,' we tend to think about commerce and shipping products in or out of the region. But it's more than that – whether it's roads or trails or manufacturing and tourism," Sheehan said. "These are things that are all important to us ... and with Wayne's appointment, I think the stars are really lining up for our region."

Cambria County Commissioners Thomas Chernisky, B.J. Smith and Scott Hunt applauded the news Wednesday.

"Having Senator Langerholc's voice heading this committee is wonderful," Hunt said, adding that the committee's priorities are items "extremely important" to moving Cambria County forward.

Smith agreed.

"It's great news to see one of our own from Cambria County earning that position, moving up the ladder," he said. "It's big for us."

Langerholc called the appointment "humbling" and said he's honored to serve in the role.

At the committee's head seat, he's hopeful he'll be able to steer both the passenger rail effort and his omissions bill toward passage in the term ahead.

Langerholc views a second daily train as both a Pittsburgh commute opportunity and tourism connector to Johnstown, saying it would bring more visitors into the area to explore, stay and dine in the area.

Langerholc also said he's already spoken with Deputy Transportation Secretary Jennie Granger, who oversees state initiatives and policy on rail and other multimodal transportation, and other Department of Transportation leadership about the need for a second daily train from Johnstown to Pittsburgh.

"And I'm confident we're on the same side," he said.

Chernisky said Langerholc understands the value of multimodal transportation.

"I'm looking forward to working with Senator Langerholc ... to help improve our roads, trails, increase passenger rail service and make improvements to our airport," he said.

Backed by supportive studies from the Joint State Government Commission, Langerholc has also been working since he took office to exempt Cambria County and six others statewide from the state's county-specific emission mandates that require a separate annual inspection on passenger vehicles. The inspection costs Cambria County residents $40 on average.

Changing that remains a priority, he said.

Langerholc will lead a 12-member standing committee that includes eight Republicans and four Democrats in all.

Langerholc's term on the committee runs for two years through 2022.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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