The region’s newest Congressman has joined a long list of elected officials to champion the completion of U.S. Route 30.
U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Rocky River, has sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao seeking funds to build the next leg of Route 30.
Plans call for extending the highway from Trump Avenue SE, where the four lanes currently end, east to connection with state Route 44 in Osnaburg Township.
“This is one of the top infrastructure projects in our district and the funding has been long awaited. I look forward to working with Secretary Chao to help move this project forward and supporting economic growth in Stark County,” Gonzalez wrote in an email.
Local, state and federal officials have spent decades lobbying the federal government for money to complete the widening of Route 30 to a four-lane highway across the state. The road — historically called the Lincoln Highway — remains two lanes from Trump Avenue SE to the Ohio line.
Last year, the Carroll, Columbiana and Stark Regional Transportation Improvement Project sought federal transportation department funds with the hope of moving the project forward, but the request was rejected.
Stark County Commissioner Richard Regula said he appreciates the support shown by Gonzalez. He noted that U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, and Sen. Bob Portman also have supported the project.
In his letter to Chao, Gonzalez asks for Infrastructure for Rebuilding America funds to cover extending the four-lane highway to run south of East Canton and connect with Route 44 east of the village.
Gonzalez notes the project will improve safety, allowing truck traffic to avoid tight turns as the two-lane stretch of Route 30 cuts through East Canton. The existing road has safety deficiencies, the congressmen wrote. “Because of the higher chances of an accident, many trucking companies refuse to allow their truck drivers to operate trucks on the existing, winding Route 30,” the letter states.
The project also will benefit rural communities in the region by improving highway access to move goods and services, including commerce related to the oil and gas industry in the Utica Shale.
Regula notes that Shell intends to build a cracker facility west of Pittsburgh to process natural gas into feed stock for making plastics. A similar facility is planned for Belmont County. Both facilities will be shipping finished products. “To build the corridor going west will be imperative,” Regula said.
Gonzalez said extending the highway east from Canton will pull additional traffic into Stark and Columbiana counties.
“The highway would generate jobs for local residents along its route,” Gonzalez wrote, noting the likely construction of retail areas, restaurants, gasoline stations, hotels and commercial businesses.
Regula said the request made last year received recommendations from federal officials but lost out to projects in the Youngstown area and Portage County. The newest grant request has been updated to note the project includes safety improvements, has economic development potential and will help the economy in rural areas.
It’s expected to be three to four months before federal officials make a final decision on projects. During that time, Regula hopes to visit with federal transportation officials in Washington to make a pitch.
“I think we finally have an opportunity to get it done,” Regula said.
Reach Edd at 330-580-8484 or email@example.com. On Twitter: @epritchardREP