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Port authority set to ask for federal transportation grant

Talk about applying for millions of federal dollars to transform state Route 45 from North Jackson to downtown Warren into a smart corridor isn’t cheap.

The Western Reserve Port Authority has agreed to be the lead applicant to the U.S. Department of Transportation and make the request by Saturday’s deadline for $18 million to $20 million, about half of the estimated amount needed to make the improvements.

It’s a move those involved are making to try and capitalize on the next-gen technology happening in Lordstown with the General Motors / LG Chem battery-cell plant and electric truck company Lordstown Motors Corp., and on the momentum behind another grant from the same agency to improve downtown Youngstown.

The plan includes lining the route from the North Jackson / Lordstown area to downtown Warren with high-speed internet fiber, adding intermodal capability and developing autonomous vehicles, including freight. Bailey Road in Lordstown also could be connected to the high-speed fiber.

Some of the money could be spent on access points to the Ohio Turnpike in Lordstown, said John Moliterno, executive director of the port authority, who added the improvements also would position the artery for future development.

“These dollars would be utilized in the general Lordstown area,” Moliterno said.

The U.S. DOT BUILD — Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Developments — program has already provided Eastgate Regional Council of Governments $10.8 million to improve downtown Youngstown. Eastgate received the money in December 2018 after trying unsuccessfully twice before.

The money for the Youngstown project will help support self-driving shuttles and also incorporate bicycle and pedestrian facilities, green infrastructure, streetscaping and wayfinding to connect major destinations in the downtown area, including Youngstown State University, the Youngstown Business Incubator, Mercy Health, Eastern Gateway Community College and the Western Reserve Transit Authority’s station on West Federal Street.

Other partners on the latest application will be the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, Lordstown village, the Ohio Turnpike, YSU and DriveOhio, which is part of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Smart Mobility Center.

“We realize there is a lot of attention, a lot of good things going on in the area,” Jim Kinnick, Eastgate executive director, has said. “We want to continue to build on that.”

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