by Christian Heilman, WTAJ-TV
SUMMIT TOWNSHIP, SOMERSET COUNTY — A new project stretching through Somerset County is going to connect Ebensburg to Meyersdale with a four-lane highway.
Thomas Helsel is in charge of the Route 219 expansion — a once-in-a-lifetime project.
He’s worked on the nearby Meyersdale Bypass, but this expansion is the most ambitious of his career because they’re turning farmland into a four-lane highway. Usually, they’re expanding existing roads.
PennDOT started acquiring land for the project in the 70s.
Thomas Helsel, Assistant Construction Engineer, PennDOT, said, “Since then the right of way has kind of sat there until we appropriated the rest of the funds to build the alignment.”
The 11 mile project expands 219 where the four-lane highway currently ends.
There will be six bridges along the route with the largest here across Buffalo Creek.
The project is funded by the federal government and Congressman Bill Shuster is excited at the possibilities.
Rep. Bill Shuster, (R) 9th District, said, “That roadway has been on the books for years to build it and if it’s connected a lot of good things will happen down there.”
They’re done moving most of the land for the project –11 million cubic yards of dirt. That’s enough to fill up Heinz Field seven times, but there’s still more to go.
“We have a lot of drainage to put in,” Helsel said. “We have a lot of structures to build and we have to pave the entire project.”
This addition will end up intersecting the Meyersdale Bypass. It’s connecting two of Helsel’s works — and Somerset County together.
“It’s going to be a happy day not only for me but for the people in Somerset and Cambria Counties,” he said.
The entire project is expected to be completed sometime in late 2017 or early 2018.