The federal infrastructure spending plan could go a long way in fulfilling Mercer County’s wish list for transportation upgrades, once local leaders find out the details.
So far, those blanks have yet to be filled in, said Mercer County Commissioner Matt McConnell.
“We don’t know if we’re going to get any of that money, and if so, how much,’’ he said.
President Joe Biden is expected to sign the $1.2 trillion spending plan by early next week.
Infrastructure usually involves roads and bridges. and that’s the case here.
Mercer County Regional Planning Commission has already drawn up details for desired road and bridge projects. The agency assists the county and local communities in matters such as zoning ordinances along with bridge and road projects.
Some of the top priorities:
• Reworking the Route 62 Bessemer and Lake Erie railroad tunnel in Coolspring Township to make it easier to for large vehicles to pass through.
• Upgrading the Route 18 and Packard Avenue intersection near Thiel College in Greenville to make it easier for pedestrians to cross the street.
• Making safety improvements on Route 62 from Keel Ridge Road in Hermitage to downtown Mercer.
• Repaving and other improvements to a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 80 in Mercer County.
• Upgrading the Exit 4 interchange connecting I-80 and Interstate 376 in Shenango Township.
Plans for all three projects are ongoing.
Like everyone else, Matt Stewart, senior planner for the Mercer County Regional Planning Commission, said he wants to know how much the county will get from the Infrastructure bill.
“I think we’re still a few weeks away when we’ll know exactly how much money is coming to Mercer County,’’ Stewart said.
There are situations where community-owned roads might be eligible for infrastructure bill funds. But those projects will be in the minority and they have to meet certain requirements, he said.
Stewart is confident road improvements the agency is proposing will eventually get completed.
“What the Infrastructure bill could do is get those projects done faster,’’ he said.
McConnell said he has previously learned painful lessons on setting timetables for road and bridge projects. Replacement of the Kelly Road Bridge in Sharpsville, which the county owns, began last week after 11 years of planning.
“One person can stop a bridge project,’’ he said. “While we waited all this time for state approval to replace the bridge we had to spend $500,000 in Band-Aid repairs on it.’’
The infrastructure bill passed the House of Representatives Nov. 5 in a 228-206 vote. Six Democrats voted against the plan, negotiated by members of both parties, and 13 Republicans voted for it.
Locally, U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-16, Butler, voted against the measure while U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13, Howland, Ohio, voted in favor.
Both representatives issued statements explaining their votes.
Kelly objected to provisions to cover costs and said $400 billion of the bill is unpaid for and spends too much money on transportation modes Americans aren’t using. It adds $340 billion to the federal budget deficit and falls short of Republican’s cost-cutting proposals, the congressman said.
“While I and many of my Republican colleagues were ready to work on real infrastructure proposals, this bill falls far short of our goals,’’ Kelly said. “Democrats have added things to this bill that are not related to true, traditional infrastructure. We wanted to have serious discussions with our Democratic friends, but Republicans were boxed out of these negotiations.’’
Ryan said the package represents badly needed investment in Ohio’s infrastructure.
The bill includes $550 in new spending spread out over five years on roads and bridges ($110 billion), power infrastructure ($73 billion), passenger and freight rail ($66 billion), broadband internet ($65 billion), clean drinking water ($55 billion), western water storage ($50 billion), public transport ($39 billion), airports ($25 billion), removal of pollution from water and soil ($21 billion), port infrastructure ($17 billion), transportation safety programs ($11 billion), electric vehicles ($7.5 billion), low- and zero-emission buses and ferries ($7.5 billion), revitalization of communities ($1 billion).
McConnell said he wants Mercer County to be first in line when the region gets word of the amount of money heading in and when it will arrive.
“We’re prepared,’’ he said.