New designation can aid transportation projects

Published 9:30 am Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The 2010 census has pushed the urbanized parts of the Tri-State over the 200,000-population mark. Now transportation leaders in the three states plan to translate that into more autonomy and funding for projects that will benefit the entire area.

That’s because with the increase in population in the urban areas, the Tri-State is now designated as a transportation management area or TMA, a federal classification.

One of the means through which local leaders will work on these collaborative projects will be through the KYOVA Interstate Planning Commission, an agency formed in 1968 to provide a forum for the three states to meet and discuss transportation projects.

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“(The TMA) gives the local officials more flexibility to determine what projects should or shouldn’t be prioritized,” according to Lawrence County Auditor Jason Stephens, who is also the chair of the KYOVA commission.

Previously not all local officials were actively involved in KYOVA. However on Friday officials from Lawrence County, Ohio, Boyd and Greenup counties, Ky., and Cabell and Wayne, W.Va. had their first meeting since the local TMA was declared to start their collaborative plan of attack.

“When people are talking about ‘they’ are doing this or that, usually KYOVA is the ‘they’ when it comes to transportation,” Stephens said. “The new thing is the fact we now have all three states involved together, which will be good for our region. We have the opportunity to know the leaders from other jurisdictions across state lines. It is nice to know they have the same issues. It is a nice way to have those lines of communication open.

“Like Cabell and Wayne, they see the benefits of it. I was really encouraged with our friends from Kentucky visiting and taking part in it. It will benefit all sides of the river and do projects to connect all sides.”

Also with the population change, the area will now get a direct allocation of federal dollars to fund transportation projects, according to Lawrence County Engineer Doug Cade.

“We get to plan those projects, we being the KYOVA board,” Cade said. “Lawrence County will have a seat at the table when planning projects in West Virginia and Kentucky. We need to make sure we have that inner-connectivity whether it is by rail, road or river that a regional planning ability helps us, to make sure the focus is what is important to us, not necessarily to Columbus, Frankfort or Charleston.

“It is a great opportunity for all three states to plan their transportation facilities so we are building highway facilities and in an efficient manner.”