Valley lists 14 projects for stimulus funds

By Denise Dick

The transportation projects are ready or nearly ready to build.

YOUNGSTOWN — Work is expected to begin by next summer on $9.3 million worth of transportation projects in Mahoning and Trumbull counties to be funded with federal stimulus money.

The Eastgate Regional Council of Governments’ technical advisory committee on Tuesday recommended 14 projects for the two counties. The list must be approved by Eastgate’s finance/executive committee.

Ten other projects were recommended to receive funding if some of the 14 come in lower in cost than expected or incur hurdles that slow their completion.

The projects had to be “quick hit” projects ready or nearly ready to go to construction, said Ken Sympson, Eastgate program manager.

As the metropolitan planning organization for the two counties, Eastgate is administering the federal stimulus money for transportation projects.

Each community involved must sign off on the projects by March 3, 2010. Any money not used will be returned to the federal government and reallocated likely to other states, officials said.

“These are use it or lose it deadlines,” Sympson said.

Because of the quick turnaround, the majority of projects are resurfacing and paving.

The technical advisory committee is comprises representatives from both counties. It reviewed the projects submitted by all communities seeking a piece of the $9.3 million for transportation projects.

Rob Donham, traffic engineer for the Mahoning County Engineer’s office, wanted to ensure that the list included new projects to show the public how the money was being used — rather than using the funds for projects that have long been in the works.

“That’s why we wanted the South Avenue project in there,” he said.

That $1.1 million project calls for repaving of 1.5 miles of South from Presidential Drive to Mathews Road in Boardman. That portion of the road also was the subject of a safety study a few years ago.

Marilyn Kenner, Mahoning County’s chief deputy engineer, said the portion of South that’s north of U.S. Route 224 is 14 years old and the portion south of U.S. 224 is 25 years old.

“We’re putting this money into the economy as quickly as we can,” said David DeChristofaro, Trumbull County engineer.

Some work may begin by late summer or fall of 2009 with most beginning in the spring or summer of 2010.

“That’s work that will start with consultants — who haven’t been working — right away,” DeChristofaro said.

As actual construction starts, members of the building trades will be getting the work, he said.

Eastgate will keep in touch with the respective communities receiving the money to ensure work is proceeding on schedule, Sympson said.

The communities also will have to demonstrate how the projects are fulfilling the promises of the stimulus package such as job creation, he said.

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