State transportation funding is dwindling. And there’s not enough to spread around for major road projects, including portions of the Mahoning Road corridor project. Completion of the entire project may be delayed until 2033.
Due to a state funding shortage, the entire Mahoning Road corridor project may not be completed for more than 20 years, according to projections.
That means construction would not be scheduled to begin on some of the key stages of the multimillion-dollar project until 2028 and 2033, said Daniel Moeglin, the city engineer.
Completion of the project had been scheduled for around 2016, Moeglin said.
The Ohio Department of Transportation announced funding projections Tuesday that could delay some of the state’s largest construction projects.
The Mahoning corridor project is not slated to receive most of the $15 million that had been allotted for the project until decades from now.
Moeglin said he is disappointed with the development. But some portions of the project already are funded. And project backers say they will explore alternatives and other funding sources to keep the plans rolling.
“I would stress the importance of this project for economic development and urban revitalization ... and we need to work together with ODOT to find ways of making it happen earlier than that,” said Moeglin, referring to the construction start dates of 2028 and 2033 for some parts of the project.
ODOT staff made the funding recommendations during a presentation to the Transportation Review Advisory Council. TRAC is a bipartisan group responsible for approving funding for the state’s largest transportation projects.
WALNUT AND CHERRY
A total of $1.5 million in state funding is available to construct the Cherry Avenue and Walnut Avenue portion of the project, with completion expected this fall, Moeglin said.
The Stark Area Regional Transit Authority is involved with that portion of the corridor improvements.
And dollars are in place for other parts of the Mahoning project, said Julie Sparks, director of special projects for J.R. Coleman, a nonprofit agency based in the Mahoning Road NE area that is overseeing the project and has assisted with securing funding, as well as gathering community input on the overall vision of the project.
Other phases of the project include improvements from Grace Avenue to Harmont Avenue NE and from Maple Avenue to Grace.
ODOT attributed the funding changes to the “looming financial crisis facing Ohio” and the agency. ODOT’s state and federal motor fuel tax revenue has decreased during the past several years.
TRAC is expected to vote to finalize the project list in March, April or May, said Steve Faulkner, ODOT’s press secretary. Planning, design and construction of various phases of projects total $2 billion. However, ODOT has roughly $100 million annually to spend on new construction, according to the agency’s news release.
BIKE LANES AND BUS SHELTERS
Preliminary engineering has been completed for the entire Mahoning corridor project, Sparks said.
Page 2 of 2 - Kirt Conrad, executive director of SARTA, said that the work on Cherry and Walnut includes nine bus shelters on Cherry and Walnut avenues. The project runs from around the downtown area to 12th Street, he said.
That phase also includes pedestrian crossings and two bike lanes — one on the north side and one on the south side of Walnut Avenue — with plans to ultimately connect the paths to the county trail system, Moeglin said. Street parking will be reconfigured along Walnut to accommodate the bike lanes, he said.
After the Walnut and Cherry project, the work on Mahoning, from Grace to Harmont, would follow, Moeglin said.
State funding for the construction of the Maple to Grace portion has been pushed back to 2033, he said.
Although other funding sources have supported various aspects of the Mahoning corridor project — including through the Stark County Area Transportation Study and with federal transportation dollars — the $15 million on the TRAC list was critical to completing the entire project, Moeglin said.
About $10 million already is in place for the Mahoning corridor project, Sparks said.
“We have diversified funding sources, even though this is a large chunk,” she said of the state funding. She questioned the value of such long-term projections by ODOT.
“Who on this planet can say what dollars can be spent in 2028 and 2033?,” Sparks said.
“I can’t imagine any community ... Canton included, that’s going to say we’re just going to stop this work until that date,” she said.
For the overall Mahoning project, improvements would include new sidewalks, decorative street lighting, drainage and sewer work, traffic signals, underground utilities, signs and bus lane improvements.
Other positive developments have been occurring in the Mahoning area, including the demolition of eyesore properties, housing renovations, community events and park improvements, Sparks said.
Sparks and Tom Thompson, executive director of J.R. Coleman, both say that the corridor work will foster new economic development along Mahoning Road as well as benefiting existing businesses.
Some economic development projects are in the works in that area, Sparks said, but cannot be announced publicly yet.
“It’s just so much more than a road project,” Thompson said.