Drivers anxious to hit the road on Route 219

Local News

Drivers in Somerset County say they’ve been waiting for years for the Route 219 southbound extension to be finished and they’re anxious to hit the road.

Brandon Rogers stopped at a gas station Wednesday afternoon in Somerset for a quick fill-up before hitting the highway. The Somerset native said he’s excited for his trip to be a little shorter once construction is complete.

“I’m glad it’s getting done,” Rogers said.

Crews still have to finish paving the last two miles of the 11-mile extension. Then, they will add rumble strips, high-tension cable barriers, guard rails, lighting and paint lines.

PennDOT officials and drivers say the new route will not just be a faster way to travel, but a safer one too.

“The shortcut in Garrett and then down through Berlin with all the sharp turns and everything, I think it’d be a lot safer for everybody to travel,” Rogers said.

“Old 219 was windy and it was hilly, so I think it will be safer for the traveling public on the new highway,” said Thomas Helsel, the assistant construction engineer for PennDOT District 9. “I also think time-wise it will cut time off for people traveling through the county. And also, hopefully, it will spur some economic development along the new corridor.”

Construction crews have hit a few road blocks. Fifteen-hundred feet of concrete needed to be torn up because it didn’t meet PennDOT standards. Rain has also delayed paving. Somerset County resident Jennifer Yoder, doesn’t blame them for the setbacks.

“They’re doing the best they can. You know, they have to depend on the weather,” Yoder said.

“There’s nothing we can do about it,” Rogers added.

Drivers said they understand there will be some bumps along the road, but they hope crews are nearing the finish line.

“Hoping this year they get it done,” Yoder said.

“I wish they would get it done quick enough that we would actually get on there and get going,” said Rogers.

The $236 million project is federally funded. PennDOT officials expect to complete the Route 219 southbound extension by late fall 2018.

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