RANSON – A federal grant for $5 million to enhance Fairfax Boulevard and create a pedestrian-friendly connection with Charles Town will mean an economic transformation of the area, Ranson’s acting city manager said Tuesday.
“We are thrilled,” said Andy Blake of Tuesday’s news of the federal transportation grant. “For over 18 months, we have engaged in an effort with the community to create a plan to encourage economic development, jobs and revitalization,” Blake said. “These funds will assist us with a key component towards implementing our goals and construct a complete street that will link Ranson and Charles Town.”
The new, 1000-foot connector is planned to include a railroad-free crossing that promotes safety, Blake said. It also will encourage redevelopment on brownfield sites within Ranson and Charles Town.
Creating such a connection between the two cities has been planned for more than a century, Blake said, but funding for it never was available.
Now the grant will allow Ranson to implement many of the ideas discussed in recent months as part of the Ranson Renewed initiative, said Blake, who today is in Baltimore with a team from Ranson at the Sustainable Communities Leadership Academy. He said he will travel to D.C. to spend Thursday and Friday with the 23 other grant winners.
In a news release announcing the grant, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., called the award “huge news” for West Virginia. “I am thrilled to see such a large grant come to the Mountain State,” she said in the release. “This means more economic opportunity, economic growth and more jobs.”
The grant comes from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, a program also known as TIGER.
Also in the news release, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called the Ranson-Charles Town project and others awarded TIGER funds “innovative, 21st-century projects that will change the U.S. transportation landscape by strengthening the economy and creating jobs, reducing gridlock and providing safe, affordable and environmentally sustainable transportation choices.”
Ranson Renewed has been in the public eye since the fall when a series of workshops led by experts were held to get input from the public. Funding for the workshops came from grant money from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation.
At that time, the new Fairfax Boulevard-George Street Corridor was described as a way to make the commercial corridor bike- and pedestrian-friendly. Also planned: a commuter center near the historic Jefferson County Courthouse to allow residents easy access to bus and train service.
John Reisenweber, executive director of the Jefferson County Development Authority, also predicted an economic boom will unfold thanks to the grant.
“These funds will greatly assist Ranson in their redevelopment efforts and help grow the economy here in Jefferson County,” he said in the news release.
For more on the initiative, go to www.RansonRenewed.