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North/South highway earns support of Cardin

North/South highway earns support of Cardin

Kevin Spradlin
Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — A meeting cancellation in Washington of local officials advocating for the North/South Appalachian Highway project didn’t stop the effort from getting a progressive bump forward.

During a Senate committee hearing Tuesday on President Barack Obama’s nomination of Earl Gohl Jr. as Appalachian Regional Commission co-chair, Sen. Ben Cardin called upon Gohl to make the project a priority.

Cardin also asked Gohl to support removing the prohibition on the state’s use of toll credits as matching funds for the Appalachian Highway project, which includes U.S. Route 219 from Interstate 68 to Meyersdale, Pa., and U.S. Route 220 from Bedford, Pa., to Corridor H in West Virginia.

The ARC is a federal-state partnership that helps fund sustainable community and economic development projects in a 13-state area from New York to Mississippi, including all of West Virginia and parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Forty-two percent of the region’s population is rural compared with 20 percent of the national population. Eighty-two of the region’s 420 counties are designated as economically distressed jurisdictions.

The goal of the ARC, established by an act of Congress in 1965, is to help the region achieve economic parity with the nation. Cardin’s words, said local stakeholder David Moe of the Garrett County Development Corp., are a major step in the right direction.

“It’s great stuff,” said Moe, also a member of The Greater Cumberland Committee, a multistate organization that has recently served as lead advocate for the highway projects. “Mr. Cardin is a great asset for Western Maryland. We’ve been privileged to work with him on this project and other items for Mountain Maryland. Without him, none of this would have been possible.

“It’s recognition at the top level of the problems with the toll credits issue, which can be resolved when the federal transportation reauthorization gets considered in the Senate,” Moe said. “The momentum is building.”

That could happen this year. The bill, which expired Sept. 30, has received short-term extensions. But within Obama’s jobs creation bill is the reauthorization — and with it could come resolution of the toll credits issue.

“If it is removed, Pennsylvania will be able to continue the construction of the (U.S.) 219 section from Somerset, Pa., to Meyersdale,” Moe said, “in addition to picking up the environmental studies on the 219 section from I-68 near Grantsville to the Meyersdale, Pa., bypass.”

Moe called both projects “integral to the development of the entire north-south Appalachian Corridor.”

Moe said Gohl, who has more than 20 years’ experience as an elected and appointed official in Pennsylvania, should be familiar with the struggles faced.

The meeting scheduled for Wednesday with members of the House of Representatives will be rescheduled, Moe said. Meanwhile, several congressional representatives have indicated their support for the project and for the removal of the toll credits prohibition. Already on board are Pennsylvania Congressmen Bill Shuster and Christopher Carney, U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in Maryland and U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore-Capito in West Virginia.

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