Thomas Prestash, district executive of PennDOT District 9, said at the annual outreach meeting on Monday that the joint waterways permit will come from the Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers once the agencies are satisfied that stream and wetland mitigation concerns are being addressed.
PennDOT can't advertise for construction bids until that permit is received, which Prestash anticipates will happen in the next few weeks. The agency will give contractors eight weeks to submit bids because it is a large project. It will take an additional six to eight weeks before PennDOT issues the notice to proceed.
"Then we'll see dirt moving," he said.
Earthwork is to be done this year. The bridges and other structures are to be built in 2014 and the paving will be in 2015. The 11-mile project will have two interchanges and six bridges.
"It is a five-year project in total, but that depends on how aggressive the contractor is," Prestash said. "It could take less."
Assistant district executive Brad Brumbaugh said all the trees that need to be cut for the first phase of construction have been cut.
"There are critical areas that had to be down before March 31," Prestash said. "We can't cut trees from March 31 to Nov. 15 because of bats roosting."
He has received questions from people who would like firewood that is being cut. PennDOT doesn't want people out there because of safety issues, he said, and the firewood is the state's property. People are not allowed to cut additional trees in the areas where trees are being cut.
"There have been many people involved in the project over the years," he said. "We're working very diligently to get it completed."
Ron Aldom, executive director of the Somerset County Chamber of Commerce, said he was delighted to hear that the project needs just one more permit to begin construction.
"The fact is, it's reality now, reality exists," he said.
Hank Parke, PBS Coals spokesman and a former chamber executive director, said he remembers traveling to Route 219 meetings with his father about 40 years ago.
"It's going to be good for our industry," he said. "We'll be able to transport coal on a highway designed for that kind of traffic. It will be safer for everyone. It will give visitors better access in and out of Somerset County. It will be better for residents and tourists. Route 219 will make life easier."
Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk said he is anxiously awaiting the word that the last permit has been issued.
"To most people in Somerset County this is a dream come true," he said. "It will be an economic stimulus for our county for the next five years during construction with the crews here to work, and beyond."