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The Suburbanite
  • House OKs $1.3M to help SARTA, Mahoning project

  • U.S. Rep. John Boccieri’s office announced that the House of Representatives had approved $1.3 million in earmarks for Canton and the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority.

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  • The U.S. House of Representatives has approved $500,000 to fund improvements on Mahoning Road NE and $800,000 for the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority to buy new buses.
    The office of U.S. Rep. John Boccieri, D-Alliance, on Monday announced approval of the earmarks. Spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw said Boccieri was able to obtain the funding due to his position on the House Transportation Committee.
    The earmarks are included as part of a $67.4 billion appropriations bill to fund the U.S. Transportation Department and U.S. Department of Hous-ing and Urban Development for the year starting Oct. 1. The House passed the bill late Thursday night by a vote of 251-167 with Boccieri voting “yes.”
    The bill goes to the U.S. Senate, where the earmark amounts could be reduced. Kershaw says Boccieri is hoping that U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Avon, who recently was appointed to the Senate Appropriations Committee, will use his new position to preserve the funding.
     Kershaw said Boccieri “will not let money (go) to other districts that could be coming to our district.” She said Canton got all of its $500,000 request, while SARTA’s original request was $1 million.
    According to Boccieri’s office, Canton’s $500,000 grant — if the bill is approved by the Senate and signed by President Barack Obama — would be part of the Mahoning Road Economic Development Project. It would be used to upgrade worn-out streets and utility lines, upgrade traffic signals, improve intersections and sidewalks, make sidewalks more handicapped accessible, put up more street lighting and improve signage.
    Julie Sparks, director of special projects for the J.R. Coleman Center, which is overseeing the Mahoning Corridor project, could not be reached for comment late Monday afternoon. But in an interview last month, she said that the project to overhaul the infrastructure along 12th Street NE and Mahoning in hopes of making it an attractive magnet for new business and residents would cost about $19 million. Sparks said the city and SARTA had obtained $4.5 million in funding for it, not including a $2.77 million Federal Transit Administration grant for SARTA last month.
    SARTA Executive Director Kirt Conrad said the $800,000 in the earmark, coupled with $200,000 in local and state matching funds, would be enough to buy at least three new 35-foot to 40-foot bio-diesel buses. Conrad said although federal stimulus funding, regular federal funding and state money had allowed SARTA to buy 32 new vehicles this year, SARTA has not completely replaced its fleet of buses reaching the end of their lives.