Ohio Should ‘Do Well’ with Infrastructure Funds

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown made clear Friday morning during a webinar that he has high expectations for the funds the state would receive through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

More than 200 local officials participated in the event, which featured Charles Small, the deputy assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“I said to Mr. Small, ‘I want Ohio not to get its fair share. I want us to get more than its fair share,’ ” said Brown, relating a previous conversation. Small would not commit to that but predicted that Ohio would “do well,” the senator reported.

Brown, D-Ohio, anticipated that Ohio communities would do better in seeking funding because of their participation in the webinar.

The act, which passed Congress last year with bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Joe Biden, will provide about $1.2 trillion in infrastructure, Small said. While working with Congress to develop the legislation, members of the Biden administration tried to consider how to make all modes of transportation “world class,” he said.

“We really feel strongly here at the Biden administration that the bipartisan infrastructure law is the answer,” he said. 

Funding opportunities include money for safety, bridges and highways, congestion relief measures such as public transit and clean energy buses, charging stations for electric vehicles, passenger rail, airport terminal modernization and infrastructure to support economic development. 

Ohio is allotted $483.3 million in bridge funding over five years. The need for such funding was illustrated by the collapse last week of the Fern Hollow Bridge in Pittsburgh late last month the day Biden visited the city. Ohio has more than 3,200 bridges in “various states of disrepair,” Brown said. 

“There’s a number of opportunities for sure,” said Ken Sympson, director of transportation and planning at Eastgate Regional Council of Governments. He said Eastgate is bringing aboard someone to provide technical expertise to local communities interested in applying for funds made available through the act. 

Among the opportunities Eastgate plans to pursue is the $1.5 billion Raise – Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity – discretionary grant program, which has an April 14 deadline. Raise is the successor to the Transportation Department grant program that funded downtown Youngstown’s ongoing $27 million Smart2 infrastructure upgrade to Fifth Avenue and several adjacent streets. 

Eastgate, on behalf of a group of local partners and stakeholders, is fine-tuning an application for Raise funds for its Logistics, Innovation & Vehicle Electrification, or Live initiative in and around Lordstown.  

Presidential candidates of both parties going back to at least the early 1990s have promised action on infrastructure, but the effort succeeded this time, Brown said. 

“We’ve been able to do this and we did it in a bipartisan way,” he continued. He and his fellow Ohio Senator, Republican Rob Portman, “disagree on more things than we agree on,” but they agreed on this issue and Portman showed leadership, he said.

The legislation also incorporates Brown’s Build America Buy America Act. “So no more bridges built with Chinese steel,” he said. 

Pictured: In this file photo from November 2021, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown meets with McDonald Steel President Jim Grasso and Jerry Moxley, director of operations. Brown stopped at the plant during a tour touting the infrastructure bill last year.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.