SOMERSET â" U.S. Sen. Bob Casey would like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fast-track its permit-issuing process so work can begin soon on expansion of Route 219 between Somerset and Meyersdale.
He made the request to the corpsâ Pittsburgh District engineer, Col. William Graham, in a letter releasedÂ Tuesday.
The corps is evaluating the request made by PennDOT to expand what is now a winding two-lane road into a four-lane highway. The evaluation process could take until the end of this year or early next year.
Casey offered to help expedite it by getting the permits finalized before then.
âIt took a long time and a lot of hard work to get the Route 219 project to this point, and itâs time that the final approvals are in place so it can move forward,â Casey said. âThe Route 219 project will create jobs and make major improvements to western Pennsylvaniaâs infrastructure, so Iâm encouraging the Army corps to expedite the review of these permits so work can begin.â
Corps officials are evaluating what impact the construction would have on wetlands, fish habitats, safety, socioÂeconomic well-being and other areas.
âThere are a full sheet of public-interest factors,â said Scott Hans, the Pittsburgh Districtâs regulatory branch chief. âItâs really broad what we have to consider.â
The Route 219 project began moving forward in July when the federal government eliminated language in its transportation bill that prohibited Pennsylvania from using toll credits as its matching share for financing the work.
Toll credits are accumulated by states when they construct and maintain roads without federal assistance.
Also, states can now increase their federal cost share on Appalachian Development Highway System projects from 80 percent to 100 percent. The stretch of Route 219 to be expanded is part of the Appalachian system.