Grants would beautify Girard-Youngstown corridor

By Robert Guttersohn

With the help of federal grants and private money, one of the most heavily traveled corridors in the Mahoning Valley may get a makeover.

Youngstown and Girard, the two cities that make up the cooperative district on which V&M Star sits, have applied for Transportation Enhancement Grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the beautifying of the U.S. Route 422 corridor that connects the two cities.

The grants must be approved by the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments.

If approved, the grants would bring $198,000 worth of landscaping to the 711 Connector where it crosses 422 in Youngstown and the Interstate 80 intersection with 422 in Girard.

“This has been a tired, old corridor for so long with all the steel mills,” said Girard Mayor James Melfi of the three-mile stretch of 422.

The federal money would pay for 80 percent of the projects with V&M Star picking up the other 20 percent.

Ken Sympson, Eastgate’s director of highway planning, said the decision on the grant would not be made until midsummer.

The projects are the first step in improving the drab route between the two highway intersections and part of a broader plan of making the area the “focal point” of the Valley, said Kim Stefanski, a V&M attorney, at a February meeting of Girard City Council.

“The world will be coming to see this plant,” Stefanski said at the meeting. “It’s important for the cities of Girard and Youngstown to put their best face forward.”

T. Sharon Woodberry, Youngstown’s economic-development director, said V&M is not the sole reason for the projects.

“Any corridor with a significant amount of traffic is a priority,” she said.

The Route 422 beautification is projected to cost $83,000, of which V&M would pay $16,600, Melfi said.

It will include the planting of 450 trees and shrubs on the grassy slopes surrounding the intersection of Route 422 and Interstate 80, according to the grant application.

The 711 project is estimated to cost $115,000, with V&M paying $23,000 of the cost.

It would include the installation of over 1,000 trees and bushes that will surround the cloverleaf exits from the connector to 422, according to the grant application.

Both applications also include endorsements from the Mahoning River Corridor Initiative, whose manager, Daniel Mamula, claimed the project would have “significant impact” on the area and the Western Reserve Port Authority.

Rose Ann DeLeon, the executive director of WRPA, wrote the project “promotes economic- and community-development in Trumbull and Mahoning County.”

The cities are competing for $1 million in enhancement projects from Eastgate to be distributed over the next two years, for which $2.5 million worth of projects applied Sympson said.

Melfi said with the MRCI and WRPA endorsing the project and with V&M’s financially backing, he hopes Eastgate will see the 422 project as a priority.

“This has been a boring, old exit for so long,” Melfi said while standing south of the busy I-80 exit on 422. “It would just be the icing on the cake.”

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