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$25M BUILD grant request for Route 45 project rejected

YOUNGSTOWN ä Applicants of federal transportation grants to remake state Route 45 into a smart corridor plan to meet with U.S. Department of Transportation officials to maybe improve their chances at securing money in the next funding cycle.

The meeting, according to John Moliterno, executive director of the Western Reserve Port Authority, the lead applicant for the BUILD grants, will be arranged through U.S. Sen. Rob Portmanás office âjust to talk a little bit about what might have been lacking, if anything.ã

âWeáre going to let this set, itáll probably be a month or two before we have that (meeting), but weáre not going to wait till it gets cold,ã Moliterno said. âWeáre going to meet while itás still fresh in everybodyás mind and then we can turn around and start preparing for next year.ã

The port authority and its partners, which included the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, Youngstown State University, DriveOhio and Ohio Turnpike, learned this week the applications were not funded.

They had applied for $25 million for infrastructure improvements along the route from North Jackson to downtown Warren and an additional $1 million planning grant.

âThey had even told us they thought it was a really good project, but they canát fund everything,ã Moliterno said. âItás the first time we made this request, often times the first ones donát get in … we learned from it, weáll learn more as we talk to them and weáll reapply.ã

The 2020 funding round gave $1 billion in BUILD ä Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Developments ä grants to 70 projects in 44 states. Two were in Ohio: $23.6 million to improve a riverwalk along the Maumee River in Toledo and $15 million toward a railcar replacement and infrastructure improvement project for the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

The grant would have further positioned Lordstown and surrounding communities to be a high-tech Midwest logistics hub, building off the momentum surrounding the more than $2 billion General Motors / LG Chem battery-cell plant and Lordstown Motors Corp., which plans to start making battery-powered pickup trucks sometime next year.

In addition, TJX Companies Inc. is building a more than 1 million-square-foot, approximately $170 million, distribution center for its off-priced home decor retailer HomeGoods in the village.

It would have been the second BUILD grant received in the Mahoning Valley.

Already, Eastgate received $10.8 million to improve downtown Youngstown. That project consists of self-driving shuttles, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, green infrastructure, streetscaping and wayfinding to connect major destinations in the downtown area.

It took three times for Eastgate to win the award.

rselak@tribtoday.com

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