’219 dwarfs everything’: Shuster proud of support for highway project
When attending events in Somerset County, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster would often quip that he has “219” written across his forehead.
“Especially in the business community, they talked to me about it all the time,” Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, said in an interview with the Daily American.
While the official opening date for four-lane Route 219 has not yet been announced, the retiring congressman said that seeing the road near completion is a “sweet, satisfying moment.” The road is expected to open soon, with 11 miles of new concrete connecting Somerset and Meyersdale. About 5 miles are needed to complete the highway to the Maryland state line.
“I can’t tell you how sweet it is to be able to get the dollars in place,” he said. “I fully intend on being there when it is completed.”
Shuster said securing the money was the hardest part and being a senior member of Congress helped.
“Getting the money was the challenge, plain and simple,” he said.
At $230 million, the project is the biggest Shuster was able to move forward during his tenure. Shuster has represented the district since winning a special election to replace his father, Bud, in 2001.
“If you put every bit of money I was able to get for the district (together) during the past 18 years, it doesn’t exceed $230 million,” he said, adding that “219 dwarfs everything.”
Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk said Shuster will be missed when he retires at the end of the year.
“Congressman Shuster has been a big help and a supporter of getting the funding,” he said.
Shuster said a completed Route 219 would be a huge boon for the economy.
“Businesses will look at that part of the county,” he said. “It will be a low-cost place to do business. Somerset County has a great workforce and will have a modern highway system — in the future looking all the way down to Route 68 (in Maryland).”
Shuster said that while many have helped, he has made the project his priority.
“This was my focus, my priority,” he said. “I was pushing the wheelbarrow.”