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The Suburbanite
  • SARTA project survives cuts by ODOT

  • The Stark County Regional Transit Authority will receive the $15 million in funding for the Mahoning Road Corridor project that had been recommended by a state panel in December.

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  • This year, it was uncertain if the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority would still receive the $15 million in funding for the Mahoning Road Corridor project that had been recommended by a state panel in December.
    Jerry Wray, who in January became director of the Ohio Department of Transportation and chairman of the Transportation Review Advisory Council, believed that the council, in recommending $168 million on its draft list of projects, was on the verge of committing money that the state didn’t have. His staff began asking applicants including SARTA for more documentation to demonstrate that the projects would have substantial economic benefits.
    On Tuesday, the council slashed nearly $100 million worth of projects from the recommendation list, including $52 million for a streetcar system in Cincinnati.
    Only one public transit project in Ohio survived the purge  — SARTA’s Mahoning Road corridor project, which will still get the $15 million.
    “There were a lot of projects that didn’t get funded,” said SARTA Executive Director Kirt Conrad. “I was very, very pleased that ODOT decided to move forward with this project.”
    Conrad said the remaining $70 million in TRAC funding announced Tuesday comes from federal transportation grant programs as well as from the state’s gasoline tax receipts.
    SARTA, which also received a $2.7 million federal grant last year for the Mahoning project, plans to spend the grant money on making improvements in northeast Canton, so its riders in the area can get to destinations more quickly, amid an aesthetically attractive environment that it hopes will attract new residents, businesses and development.
    The work, which could start this year and run through 2013, will be performed on Cherry and Walnut avenues from Tuscarawas Street E to 12th Street, Mahoning Road and Harmont Avenue NE up to the Wal-Mart store. It would be done in conjunction with planned improvements by the city and J.R. Coleman Center, which has secured some funding and is seeking more.
    SARTA plans to build a bike lane on Cherry Avenue NE, install GPS detectors in traffic light systems that would turn the lights green on the approach of buses, add signs, install several bus shelters, improve landscaping by bus stops, upgrade sidewalks and install concrete pads to protect streets from the pounding of the buses. SARTA and the city plan to upgrade street lighting and replace overhead utility lines with underground lines to improve the area’s appearance.
    Conrad stressed that SARTA is not allowed to spend the grants on operations. He said if voters don’t approve a renewal of its quarter-percent sales tax, which provides the bulk of SARTA’s operating revenue and expires next year, the system would shut down by September 2012 and unspent grant money would be returned. The issue is on the ballot this May.