Concerned about when Congress will pass the Surface Transportation Extension Act, members of a north-south coalition pushing for completion of a four-lane Route 219 on Friday applauded the appointment of a highway supporter to a conference committee on the issue.

Route 219 coalition members also were pleased with the primary election win of another highway advocate.

Highway supporters from three states gathered Friday in southern Somerset County as part of an ongoing effort for completion of the 11-mile stretch of Route 219 between Somerset and Meyersdale. The two-lane road would be expanded to a four-lane limited access roadway.

Representatives from Cambria and Somerset counties praised this week’s appointment of U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, as a conferee to the House committee that will negotiate with a Senate committee to get the transportation legislation passed into law.

The first meeting of the House-Senate committee is set for May 8, and Route 219 advocates are hoping for significant results by midyear.

“I think Shuster is going to be very active in trying to get a bill out,” said Dave Moe, coordinator of the North/South Appalachian Highway Coalition.

The Senate earlier this year passed the transportation bill, but it got bogged down in the House and federal legislators failed to meet the March 30 deadline.

The House approved a 90-day extension, taking the existing transportation bill through June 30.

Coalition members also were happy with Tuesday’s primary election, in which Democrat voters in the 12th Congressional District nominated U.S. Rep. Mark Critz of Johnstown as its candidate in the fall general election.

Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk said Critz’s ability to beat the odds and defeat Pittsburgh-area Democrat Jason Altmire was a major victory for Route 219.

“He’s been very supportive all along,” Vatavuk said.

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