Even with a letter of support from three U.S. Congressmen who represent local constituents, Butler County has not been awarded federal funding at this time to complete more of the Route 228 improvement project in southern Butler County.
Congressmen Mike Kelly, Glenn Thompson and Conor Lamb sent a letter on Tuesday to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in support of the county’s application for funding through the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (or INFRA) Discretionary Grant Program. The county was seeking $68 million to widen Route 228 West from the Mars Railroad Bridge through Seven Fields.
“Our delegation jointly supported the successful Gateway 228 BUILD application and, recognizing the relevance of this project to the safety of our citizens and economic viability of western Pennsylvania, we come together again to pledge our full bipartisan support for Butler County’s INFRA application,” the letter reads.
On Thursday, the Butler County commissioners received word they were not chosen to receive the grant.
“We will continue to pursue additional funding options and we’ll go back again for the next round of INFRA,” Chairman Leslie Osche said in an interview Thursday. “We were completely grateful for all the support of our congressional delegation.”
Last year, the county was awarded a $20 million federal BUILD grant to help supplement the Route 228 project. Work has already begun and will continue to widen and straighten Route 228 West from Route 8 to Quality Gardens.
Funds are still needed by the county and PennDOT to complete the final four segments of project.
“Hopefully all this does is (maybe) delay the completion of that corridor project from Mars Railroad Bridge West into Cranberry and the rest of Freedom Road…but again, we continue to look for other funding sources,” Osche said. “We will see the continued development for Ball’s Bend and Freedom Road.”
So far- according to U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly- $226 million in local, state and federal funds have been committed to undertaking nine of the 13 roadway segments that comprise Route 228. Kelly has stated in the past that the road has a crash rate three times the state average, and that 6,000 students from eight schools travel on it each school day.
“Completing the Gateway 228 project means more jobs and better economic connectivity for Butler, Beaver and northern Allegheny counties,” Kelly said. “It will also improve safety, traffic, congestion and environmental issues while making Western Pennsylvania’s infrastructure more suitable for the 21st century economy.”
Overall, Kelly said the Gateway 228 Project is a $294 million, 26-mile freight and commuter corridor project that links several burgeoning economic activity centers with waterway ports to the east and west- connecting southern Butler County and northern Allegheny to Shell Chemicals’ $6 billion ethane cracker plant in Beaver County and its 6,000 jobs.
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