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May. 6, 2010
The U.S. Rt. 219 North project is now listed as number one on Garrett County’s list of highway priorities, at least on paper. For several years, it was in second place, with the Oakland bypass in the number one spot. The southern project is now number two.
The switch in positions, however, does not mean the bypass is less important, county officials stressed during a nearly one-hour impromptu meeting at the county commissioners’ office Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m not saying that the bypass isn’t important; I’m not saying I don’t support it; I’m not suggesting it get killed or be slipped through to the bottom,” said Director Jim Hinebaugh, Garrett County Department of Economic Development. “The reality is we’re being asked to move this section of road (219 North) as our top priority, on paper, for the time being, to show that it is important to us.”
In addition to him and Commissioners Fred Holliday and Ernie Gregg, those in attendance included Sen. George Edwards; Del. Wendell Beitzel; Oakland mayor Peggy Jamison and councilman Jay Moyer; Director John Nelson, Garrett County Department of Planning and Zoning; and local resident David Moe. Hinebaugh and Moe are members of the Greater Cumberland Committee (TGCC).
Hinebaugh requested the meeting and the change in priorities. He noted the TGCC has made the U.S. Rt. 219 North/South Corridor its top priority in terms of projects.
“When I’m talking about the North/South Corridor, I’m talking about 219 North of Interstate-68, Interstate-68, and east of Cumberland, 220 South,” the director said.
He indicated that it was a perfect project for the TGCC to take on, as it represents the three counties directly affected by the project: Garrett, Allegany, and Mineral (W.Va.). Garrett County’s portion of the corridor project involves 2.54 miles of Rt. 219 North, from I-68 in Grantsville to the Pennsylvania line.
“To the Greater Cumberland Committee’s credit, they’ve made a lot of progress in elevating the awareness of this project on the federal level and even getting some pretty good support,” Hinebaugh said about the group’s lobbying efforts.
During a TGCC North/South Corridor Workgroup meeting, however, it was noted that those efforts would be more effective if the project were the top priority for all three counties, as well as Somerset County, Pa.
Hinebaugh said Allegany County has already made the Rt. 220 leg its top priority in the state’s Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP).
“I think our top priority in the CTP is the Oakland bypass,” the director said.
The TGCC, therefore, asked Hinebaugh and Moe to talk to the commissioners about changing that ranking.
“The rationale being that it’s kind of hard to lobby Congress for funds to build the North/South Corridor if it isn’t our top priority, particularly at the state level,” Hinebaugh said.
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