Cumberland Times-News

October 4, 2013

U.S. 219 project could be back on SHA’s map

Michael A. Sawyers
Cumberland Times-News

— FROSTBURG — Out of commission since 2007, the project to upgrade U.S. Route 219 between Interstate 68 near Grantsville and the Pennsylvania line is back on the Maryland State Highway Administration’s radar screen.

“We will look at three possible routes and I don’t think we will come up with any new ones,” said Carmeletta Harris, project manager. Harris, along with representatives from Pennsylvania and West Virginia updated the North-South Highway Coalition at its annual meeting Friday at Frostburg State University.

This 2.5-mile piece of highway is part of a larger effort to create a major highway from Somerset, Pa., on the north to Scherr, W.Va., on the south using U.S. Route 219, Interstate 68 and U.S. Route 220.

“All three of the routes being considered are new highways,” Harris said, meaning they will not run along or atop existing roads.

One possible route is just to the east of the existing U.S. 219, in a valley that can be seen from the traffic signal where that road intersects with U.S. Route 40.

The other two routes have a common beginning, slightly to the west of Grantsville, though they bifurcate before reaching the state line.

Harris said it is not possible now to place a timetable on a route selection, although creation of an environmental impact statement is likely to take two years.

Data gathered in 2007, such as traffic flow or existing natural conditions, has to be updated. SHA has $2 million for this phase of the effort.

Tom Prestash of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation encouraged the coalition, a product of The Greater Cumberland Committee, by saying it wasn’t that long ago that there was a belief that the portion of U.S. 219 between Somerset and Meyersdale would never be improved.

That work started this past summer as part of a $300 million contract.

The tricky part about the short road from Grantsville to the state line is that it will have to align with routes that will be considered by Pennsylvania. Prestash said five routes are being considered on that side of the Mason-Dixon Line.

In addition, Pennsylvania does not have its portion of the study funded yet.

Dave Moe, The Greater Cumberland Committee’s North-South Appalachian Highway Project coordinator, said a bigger and better road system between Somerset and Scherr will create 20,000 construction jobs and 10,000 permanent positions.

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.