As the opening of a new 11-mile stretch of U.S. Route 219 from Somerset to Meyersdale approaches, PennDOT is inviting community members, business leaders and project stakeholders to celebrate the new roadway.
A community event is planned from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday during which the public is welcome to walk, bike or explore a three-mile section of the new section of highway, from the northern interchange at Berlin Plank Road to just past the Mud Pike interchange.
Those participating in Saturday’s event should enter at the new southbound ramp from Berlin Plank Road, just south of Somerset Borough. Parking will be permitted along a designated section of the new highway, the release said.
Ron Aldom, executive director of the Somerset County Chamber of Commerce, said the celebration will include displays by area nonprofits and community organizations, as well as a PennDOT presentation on the environmental issues addressed during the construction of the 11-mile highway extension.
“This is a chance for the community to celebrate that the road is finally done,” Aldom said on Wednesday. “It’s been 50 years in the making, and so it’s a big deal here.”
Aldom quickly added that the community continues to look forward to construction of the final five-mile extension from Meyersdale to the Maryland state line.
According to a press release issued Wednesday by Gov. Tom Wolf and PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards, the roadway is slated to open the week of Nov. 19. Official ribbon-cutting ceremonies are being planned for Nov. 21, Aldom said.
“This new portion of roadway will provide motorists with a safer roadway, will help create economic development and creates connectivity between Somerset and Meyersdale,” Wolf said. “This roadway will make the area a viable location for future development not only in Somerset County but surrounding counties as well.”
The roadway’s construction also included extensive environmental mitigation. The new road features natural snow fences and a wildlife crossing, constructed as a tunnel for animals, Aldom said.
“It opens up a way that the deer can go under the road instead of over it, and it’s working, the construction crews say,” Aldom said.
“Transportation is vital to communities’ economic vitality and quality of life, and the Route 219 project is a prime example,” Richards said. “We are proud to complete this improvement for travelers and have partnered with the local communities to truly celebrate this accomplishment.”
The expansion of Route 219 has been in development since the 1970s, PennDOT said, when the initial right-of-way acquisition took place before the project was put on hold pending available funding. Though design work occurred in the early 2000s, construction funding availability delayed the project until the 2012 federal transportation bill allowed for projects in the Appalachian Development Highway System – including this section of Route 219 – to be funded 100 percent with federal funds and move forward.
The project was divided into three contracts, which included earthwork, structures and paving. Fay, an i+iconUSA Company, of Tarentum, received the $124 million contract for earthwork, which was completed in fall 2016. The company also received the $74 million structures contract. New Enterprise Stone & Lime Co. Inc., of New Enterprise, was awarded the $58 million paving contract.