WASHINGTON DC — Members of the Community Improvement Corporation of Gallia County met in Washington DC Thursday to discuss hopes for placing a smart corridor through Gallia and paving the rest of its gravel county roads.
Gallia Engineer Brett Boothe first approached the Gallia Commissioners in mid-July and then Gallipolis City Commissioners the next week about a pair of federal grant applications totaling around $50 million in awarded money to bring to Gallia’s economy, if approved by federal officials. He, Gallia Assistant Engineer Beth Lozier, Community Improvement Corporation of Gallia County President Josh Bodimer and CIC member Tammy Brabahm visited with Ohio’s sixth District Congressman Bill Johnson, US Senator Sherrod Brown’s staff, US Senator Rob Portman and senior officials with the US Department of Transportation to share the importance of the projects to Appalachia and the southeastern Ohio region.
“We had meetings all day and didn’t really break,” said Boothe. “We went from one meeting to the next. Right after our last meeting, we drove back and were all exhausted. In 24 hours, we went up to DC, had all those meetings and came straight back. It would have been neat to walk and tour. We just didn’t have time. This was all business.”
Boothe said the group first met with Congressman Johnson, then Senator Brown’s Office, senior officials from the USDOT and then with Senator Portman. Boothe said Johnson has written a letter of support for both projects. Johnson’s official Twitter account has shared a Gallipolis Daily Tribune article also voicing support for the projects. The projects also received letters of support from Brown and Portman, said Boothe.
“This meeting with all these people, the congressman, the senator and officials, we want to make sure that, number one, we’ve turned in great applications. We know that. Our main priority was also to reach out to them and put those projects in the spotlight to hopefully gain additional influence to have a chance at getting one of these projects in Gallia County, if not both,” said Boothe.
The officials with the US Department of Transportation, the engineer said, were part of senior staff who received the Gallia grant applications. Boothe was confident with his conversations that he felt Washington officials felt both projects had good “cost benefit analysis” and would be a boon to the region’s development.
“We came out of all those meetings feeling good,” said the engineer. “Now, we’re just crossing our fingers hoping for good results. It would have a dramatic impact on southeast Ohio to have these approved.”
While aiming to pave over 100 miles of gravel and dirt county roads is certainly one of Boothe’s main goals as Gallia County Engineer, the creation of a potential smart corridor in Gallia County could place it in a position to serve as a leader in testing smart driving technology in Appalachia. US 35 serves as a major gateway of commerce, connecting Ohio to West Virginia and provides access to several states on the east coast. Boothe’s grant proposals, however, are competing among 800 other BUILD program applications nationwide. Previously titled the TIGER program, since its inception, Boothe said no BUILD program grants have been approved in 32 counties in the Appalachian area throughout Ohio. Grant funding for programs had previously been awarded in Hamilton, Pickaway, Summit, Portage and Cuyahoga Counties.
“We want to make sure Appalachia doesn’t get left behind and to do that we’re also putting up around a $2 million match for (each of) these grants so Washington knows how serious we are,” said Boothe. “That’s a lot of money for our area, but it’s worth it if we can bring tens of millions of dollars home.”
Boothe thanked CIC for making the trip to Washington DC possible as well as his staff for their work and project supporters for their enthusiasm.
For more information, visit www.galliabuildgrants.com.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.