CUMBERLAND — Even when something’s expected, it’s even better when it becomes official.

City officials learned Thursday the Appalachian Regional Commission awarded an $820,679 grant — funding that ensures Virginia Avenue will transform from the bumpy washboard it is to a smooth, non-teeth-chattering ride.

John DiFonzo, city engineer, called the announcement great news. The avenue will see improvements from Oldtown Road to Industrial Boulevard as well as a portion of Second Street and an alley from First to Third Street. The alley runs behind the site that will become the new Allegany County Human Re-sources Development Commission’s building.

Much of the work is centered around the HRDC facility, which is expected to be under construction soon, because that building stimulated much of the roadway funding.

“HRDC will be a major player and an item of improvement on Virginia Avenue,” DiFonzo said.

U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski made the ARC grant announcement Thursday. Both said the money will be used to stimulate economic development and growth and that improvements to the corridor will help create new jobs and attract millions of dollars in investments.

Through a news release, the senators said the work is expected to create 37 new jobs and retain 56 within the corridor. It’s also estimated the work will attract about $3.6 million in investments to the corridor in the next five years.

DiFonzo, like many others, is looking forward to seeing the project come to fruition.

All new curbs and sidewalks will be poured except on the east side from Second Street to Industrial Boulevard. Those along that stretch were replaced in the 1980s and only the damaged portions will be repaired. New crosswalks, lane markings and signs will be included.

Even though it’s too expensive to place the power lines underground, DiFonzo said the city is working with Allegheny Power to eliminate unused lines and to “neaten up the area.” Some landscaping improvements also are expected.

Last paved in the 1970s, the roadway will be milled down to the brick and repaved after any damaged areas are patched. A pavement fabric, which strengthens the road, will increase the life expectancy of the road.

DiFonzo said that a “good, hard look” at the water and sewer system revealed minimal problems; therefore, only minor work will be necessary.

The engineering staff is working on the design with the hope that it will be ready for the state to review in the next few weeks.

“We really want to get the project out to bid and get the contract going by this winter,” DiFonzo said. “We’d like to have the numbers before January. Honestly, I would not expect any construction before the spring or summer.”

Normally, a project this large would take about a year to complete, but he’s optimistic it could be finished by fall 2009.

Funding for the nearly $1.5 million project includes two ARC grants, three Community Legacy grants that total more than $350,000, city funds and $100,000 in state bond money with the possibility of additional funding.

“It looks like this will be a good project and one people will be real happy about,” DiFonzo added.

It’s possible the next phase of the Rolling Mill access roads improvement project will be under way at the same time.

“It all depends upon when money becomes available,” DiFonzo said as to the Rolling Mill work. “I don’t think there will be any major traffic problems.”

Contact Maria Smith at msmith@times-news.com.

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