|TRAFICANT, James A., Jr.,|
FRIDAY, MAY 22, 1998
Washington, D.C. – The House-Senate conference agreement on a six-year, $216 billion highway and transit bill includes $46 million for eight projects in the Mahoning Valley inserted into the bill by U. S. Rep. James A. Traficant, Jr. (D–OH). "I am thrilled that, after years of gathering dust on the drawing board, urgently needed transportation projects in the Mahoning Valley are finally going to move forward," said Traficant, a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Earlier today the House overwhelmingly approved the House-Senate conference report on H.R. 2400, the "Building Efficient Surface Transportation Equity Act of 1998" (BESTEA). The bill authorizes $216 billion in federal funding over the next six years for highway and transit programs. Traficant was able to secure funding in the BESTEA conference report for the following eight projects:
Construction of S.R. 711 Connector ($25 million)
Construction of Kings Graves Rd. Interchange ($5.56 million)
Opening up of Federal Plaza in Youngstown ($2.08 million)
Construction of Intermodal Industrial Park in Wellsville ($3.04 million)
Jacobs Road Bridge Replacement in Youngstown ($2 million)
Widening of Western Reserve Road ($2.4 million)
Widening of North Road ($1.2 million)
Widening of U.S. Route 422 through Girard ($4.72 million)
The $46 million in federal funds secured by Traficant will leverage an additional $17 million in state and local spending. With the exception of the Wellsville Intermodal Park, which is not a highway project, Traficant was able to secure the full federal match for every project. By law, the federal government can only fund 80 percent of the total cost of a highway project. State and local governments must provide the remaining 20 percent.
The conference reduced the $9.3 billion for "high priority projects" included in the House-passed version of the bill by 25 percent. Traficant was able to secure federal funding for 11 Mahoning Valley projects in the House-passed bill. Rather than cut each of the 11 projects by 25 percent, Traficant opted to eliminate three projects in the conference report, and retain maximum funding for the remaining eight. Projects receiving the full federal match of 80 percent stand a much better chance of getting state matching funds.
Traficant worked closely with local officials in deciding which projects to eliminate. The projects eliminated were the McGuffey Road bridge replacement, the North Road Connector and the widening of S.R. 46. All of these projects would not have been ready to start for at least three years. In all likelihood, unused federal funds allocated for those projects would have been rescinded by Congress.
"The projects remaining in the bill are those that can get started immediately," noted Traficant. "I am particularly pleased to have been able to achieve my initial goal of obtaining the maximum federal share of 80 percent for all of the Valley highway projects in the bill," added Traficant. "This greatly increases the likelihood that the state will provide matching funds." Traficant intends to meet shortly with state and local officials to discuss how to move all of the Valley projects forward.
As soon as the bill is signed into law by the President, the $46 million for the Mahoning Valley projects will be transferred over the next six years from the U.S. Department of Transportation to the Ohio Department of Transportation, which can only spend the funds on the eight earmarked projects.
Under the conference report, Ohio's annual federal highway funding will average $896.6 million over each of the next six years – a 40 percent increase over the previous six years. Ohio will receive nearly 91 cents for every dollar it sends to Washington in federal gas taxes. Over the last six years, Ohio only received 87 cents on the dollar. In 1986, Traficant authored an amendment guaranteeing states at least an 85 percent minimum allocation from the federal Highway Trust Fund.2009