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Underpass project fails in bid for U.S. funds

State of Ohio given only 1 federal grant

McCord-underpass-date-1

In 2009, one Springfield High School student was killed and a second lost a leg when they tried to cross the railroad tracks before an Amtrak passenger train.

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Lucas County Engineer Keith Earley's hopes for a $10 million federal grant to keep the McCord Road underpass on schedule appear to have come up empty.

Steve Katich and Steve Fought, spokesmen for Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), said Wednesday that the congressman's Washington office was notified that the project will not be funded when the U.S. Department of Transportation announces a $500 million round of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants on Friday.

"These are very competitive grants," Mr. Fought said. "They are scored on a formula. There are certainly more worthy grant projects than there is money to pay for them."

Mr. Earley, who had called the TIGER grant application a "long shot" when he applied for it last winter, said he was most surprised that only one project in all of Ohio will be funded, according to a report published Wednesday in the Plain Dealer of Cleveland. The approved project is in Columbus.

"It's not good news that we didn't get it, and it's not good news that we only got $16 million statewide," Mr. Earley said.

Construction of the $41.6 million underpass, which would separate busy McCord Road from a major railroad line hosting as many as 100 trains per day, had been scheduled to begin in 2015 before the Ohio Transportation Review Advisory Council announced late last year that funding in the Ohio Department of Transportation's "major-new" construction program was severely overextended based on its financial condition.

An initial, revised timetable pushed the project all the way back to 2029, although earlier this month ODOT knocked six years off that delay, based on agency cost-cutting and improved gas-tax receipts.

Mr. Earley, who has warned that other federal funding in the project's budget will expire long before even a 2023 construction start, applied for the TIGER grant in hopes of restoring its 2015 start date.

Planning for the McCord project began in 2001 when the Taft administration set aside an initial $9.1 million as part of a statewide campaign to build bridges at busy or safety-sensitive railroad crossings.

The project's local prominence elevated in late 2009 when two Springfield High School students were struck by an Amtrak train when they tried to run across the tracks in front of it at McCord, killing one and permanently injuring the other.

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