State and Cambria County officials went to the state Transportation Commission hearing on Wednesday to lobby for upwards of a half-billion dollars to expand to four lanes some sections of routes 56 and 219.

While they didn’t get any financial commitments, they got something unexpected.

Allen Biehler, state Department of Transportation secretary, said he will travel to Johnstown soon and discuss less-costly options that will still bring safety and mobility improvements.

State Rep. John Wozniak, D-Westmont, and county Commissioners P.J. Stevens, Milan Gjurich and William Harris came away pleased.

“This is excellent. I think he’s pretty serious,” Wozniak said. “Let’s see what we have and what we can do.”

The meeting will likely be held in late September or October, Wozniak said.

Wednesday’s hearing was the fourth of seven hearings statewide.

The commission members travel around the state every other year gathering testimony for the biennual update of the 12-year transportation plan.

Stevens said the requests had to be for limited-access, four-lane highways on routes 219 and 56.

“We had to make a case for all of the marbles,” he said following the hearing. “Some compromises are going to have to take place.”

A Route 219 four-lane to the Clearfield County line carries a price tag of $200 million to $300 million, David Belz, Cambria County transportation planner said.

Biehler said there is a need to define some scale of improvement without the full four-lane improvements.

Estimates are that a West End bypass for Route 56 would cost $96 million, said Thomas Prestash, PennDOT district executive.

“We’re looking for alternative solutions for that,” Prestash said of efforts to get some of the truck traffic out of the West End.

On the eastern end of the highway, PennDOT is completing preliminary engineering on improvements to the Peggy Westover Curve near Pleasantville, with final design set for early next year, Prestash said.

Construction of the $35 million project will be a couple years away, he said.

Work on smaller Route 56 improvements continues.

Work will start next year on a two-pronged project putting turning lanes in front of the Chestnut Ridge schools campus.

A push for an improved Route 219 also is a priority for officials of Somerset County.

John Dubnansky, transportation program manager for the Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission, urged the state to continue with planned construction of 219 as a four-lane highway between Somerset and the Maryland border.

Bedford Commissioner Steve Howsare joined the chorus pushing for a better Route 56 from Cessna to the Somerset County line at the top of Pleasantville Mountain.

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