On Thursday, local officials discussed local infrastructure projects they’d like to prioritize with funding from Congress’ bipartisan Infrastructure Act — things like transportation improvements in Lordstown, North Jackson and Warren, and the expansion of high-speed Internet.
Representatives met with U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown of Cleveland, D-Ohio, on Thursday for a roundtable at the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments in downtown Youngstown, examining what is on offer through the infrastructure investment and employment, which Brown’s office calls “historic.” federal investment.
“One of our big goals over the next year will be to make sure Ohio communities get their fair share — or more — of the dramatic investments we passed in the bipartisan infrastructure,” Brown is quoted in a press release. “It’s a jobs bill. It will create jobs on construction projects, connect people to jobs, and create jobs throughout the supply chain, as we have worked to ensure that this bill has the Buy America requirements strictest ever defined in an infrastructure bill.
Eastgate’s proposed smart logistics hub in Lordstown was among the projects discussed on Friday. The $24.7 million Logistics Innovation and Vehicle Electrification Zone — or LIVE — is seeking discretionary funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation this year.
Steve Kristan, digital equity and broadband consultant for Eastgate, also had the opportunity to advocate for the expansion of broadband internet in the Valley.
“Infrastructure is usually roads and bridges, but in today’s economy that includes broadband,” Kristan told Mahoning Matters after the meeting. “We have some areas in Youngstown, in Warren, that have a lot of access, but it’s an affordability issue.”
Eastgate intends to seek funding offered through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for broadband expansion projects on the “middle mile”, referring to long spans of new high-speed internet lines which then encourage “last mile” connections to communities in need.
The deadline to apply is September 30. Applicants can request between $5 million and $100 million, Kristan said.
“Brown is committed to helping us get all the federal dollars we can,” he said. “In fact, we want to get more than our fair share.”
Western Reserve Transit Authority Executive Director Dean Harris gave an overview of the transit provider’s plan to develop a “parking lot” lot near major industrial employers in North Jackson, which he said will is incorporated into Eastgate’s larger grant application.
Although WRTA offers a regular fixed route to the area, the system’s long passenger buses are not maneuverable enough to get workers to their job sites.
“There are places we can’t even get to because we can’t turn the bus around, or we can’t get into their alleys because they’re too small,” he said. he told Mahoning Matters.
The new station would allow those using the North Jackson fixed route to depart and then take a smaller paratransit vehicle to their destination, Harris said.
“It’s a more convenient way to get passengers on a large bus to where they’re trying to get to,” he said.
The bill also includes funding for Ohio transit providers to purchase zero-emission buses, according to Brown’s office.
“Eastgate thanks Senator Brown for visiting our office this morning to learn more about infrastructure priorities in the Mahoning Valley and for his work on the bipartisan infrastructure package,” Jim Kinnick, executive director of ‘Eastgate,’ is quoted in the release. “We look forward to working with his office to ensure communities across the valley can participate in these impactful projects.”