ITHACA, N.Y. — For the city of Ithaca’s Collegetown Travel Corridor project, it’s try, try again.
As previously reported on the Voice earlier this month, the state issued its Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) grant awards, including those for the Southern Tier. The eight-country region received $60.4 million in 2016, the lowest out of the state’s ten competing regions.
While $3.2 million in grants were awarded to organizations in Tompkins County, things did not play out as the city had hoped. It’s Collegetown Travel Corridor, although deemed a priority project by the region, was not selected to receive any funding.
“[It was] very disappointing. It really was Ithaca’s turn,” said Phyllisa DeSarno, the city’s deputy director of economic development.
The Collegetown Travel Corridor would have reconstructed College Avenue and Stewart Avenue as complete streets, and called for nine new, high-tech bus stops along bus routes from Downtown to Collegetown and Cornell. While the city and Cornell have already committed funds and resources, the plan needs another $1.72 million to move forward to the community meeting and formal planning stage.
On the one hand, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the region received a comparatively low amount of funds. It was one of the three regions that won the Upstate Revitalization Initiative “hunger games” last year, which promises $500 million over 5 years. In fact, the city and county have plans to tap into some of that money to help pay for the move of the New York State DOT operations on the waterfront to a new location near the airport, eventually selling the current DOT facility to a private developer.
In theory, the city could explore applying to have some money cover the travel corridor as well. But they were hoping they wouldn’t need to explore that alternative.
“The Southern Tier has done really well in these statewide competitions – for the last several years we were one of the “top plan” winners and last year won one of the three Upstate Revitalization Initiative awards. So, while it’s a disappointment that we weren’t a “top plan” winner this year and didn’t get a larger number of priority projects funded, taking a slightly longer view we’ve done really well as a region in these competitive programs,” said Tom Schryver, a Cornell representative to the REDC.
It should be noted that not all projects are reviewed equally – some of the awards, like those to local theater groups, come from arts and cultural grants, which are different from the state funding sources that might be used for infrastructure upgrades or economic development. In other words, grant money for a new theater program isn’t necessarily taking money away from a new a new bridge.
Also, while some projects may be funded, it may not be the full amount – the largest winner of Tompkins County’s funding and the other priority project was the Cargill salt mine project in Lansing, which had received $2 million. Cargill and the Southern Tier REDC had requested $5 million.