By Kecia Bal, Tribune-Democrat
EBENSBURG – Aiming to build up from progress in Somerset County, members of a national advocacy group for finishing Route 219 as an international trade corridor are working to create a “Complete 219” association in the Ebensburg-Carrolltown area.
Citing successes in other areas, including Somerset County – where construction crews are in a second phase of construction on an 11-mile stretch of Route 219 from Meyersdale to Somerset – Continental 1 members are asking that members of the public, business owners and other interested parties join in an initial effort to create an association in northern Cambria County, Continental 1 Executive Director Meg Lauerman said.
“This matters to every, single person in Cambria County,” she said. “In a north-south trade corridor, even completing a small project brings jobs into our community. Roads are the rivers of the town. They bring tourists in, students, doctors to hospitals and workers to manufacturers.”
Somerset County residents and leaders have been part of the push since Continental 1 formed in 2000, and success came through the support of residents and business at the local level, Continental 1 board President Henry Cook said. Cook also is president and CEO of Somerset Trust Co.
“We have tremendous momentum in the effort to complete Route 219, especially in Pennsylvania, and now we’re ready to engage more communities in the effort as we chip away at the project,” he said.
Preparing the groundwork for a successful advocacy campaign is crucial, Cook said, to ensure that communities don’t miss funding opportunities.
“When Congress ultimately agrees upon a funding mechanism for the nation’s infrastructure, many projects will be in line for funding,” he said. “Supporters and stakeholders of completing Route 219 must begin to make their case now, so we’re ready for the conversation when it happens.”
A finished route in Cambria County would create better access to education, Penn Highlands President Walter Asonevich said.
“Completing Route 219 means different things to different communities, and for our stretch of the road, it’s about safety and access for our students and our local residents,” he said.
Grass-roots level campaigns have provided outcomes farther north, in McKean County, where a Complete 219 group launched in November 2014 to assess trouble spots along the highway for possible state investment to improve safety and mobility, and Cambria County is the next logical step, Lauerman said.
“We have so much momentum along 219 in New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland,” she said. “We need to start thinking now for projects that will happen a few years in the future. The important thing is to get to the head of line for when funding becomes available.”
More information on the initiative to complete Route 219 can be found at continental1.org.