1. Good news for Route 219.
Route 219 was chosen as the top news story in Somerset County this year, as voted by the Daily American news department staff.
On March 14, the Senate passed a two-year $109 billion transportation bill that includes the use of toll credits as a state match for highway construction projects. The bill also makes all Appalachian Development projects 95 percent federally funded for the next two years. The House passed the bill on June 29.
On July 6, President Barack Obama signed the bill, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, into law. The act delivers the funding needed to complete the portion of the four-lane Route 219 from Meyersdale to Somerset.
Tom Prestash, district executive for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation District 9, announced a timeline Nov. 1. The pre-bid meeting will be held in late February to go over the bid package. Trees can only be cut from November through March because of bats. The entire 11-mile segment will take about five years to complete. That includes two years for the building of the superstructures and one year for paving.
2. PBS Coals announce furloughs
PBS Coals announced on July 20 that the company is furloughing 225 employees and stopping production at five mining sites. Reasons cited for the decision were market conditions and increased regulatory pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency, which has caused costs to rise.
Then on Dec. 13, PBS Coals announced it is furloughing an additional 138 employees from various sites. In addition, two more sites were idled. D. Lynn Shanks, president and CEO, said both the international and domestic coal markets continue to remain soft due to weak economic growth and activity.
In 2011 PBS had reached 1,000 employees and was one of the largest employers in Somerset County. It has since furloughed about 40 percent of its work force.