JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Johnstown’s train station, the Johnstown Inclined Plane, Cambria County Transit Authority’s Downtown Intermodal Transportation Center and the city’s Main Street will be modernized in both functionality and appearance, thanks to $24,448,164 in discretionary federal funding that has been awarded to the city, officials said Tuesday.
The plans are part of the overall Iron to Arts Corridor project.
The money will come from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant program.
“Today, I am proud to say that Johnstown can begin to take action on projects vital to the economic health of the region,” U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, said in a released statement. “Not only will upgrading and restoring transportation hubs allow for more pedestrian movement, these projects will facilitate commutes for workers and increase tourism. As we build back better, investing in our nation’s infrastructure is absolutely critical. I will continue to advocate for resources to come to Johnstown and southwestern Pennsylvania.”
State Sen. Wayne Langerholc Jr., R-Richland Township, called the grant “game-changing” and “historic.”
“This is tremendous news for the City of Johnstown and really will serve as a catalyst to continue the excellent work that’s been done with the city,” said Langerholc, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. “Going forward here, this will be tremendous.”
Numerous agencies and individuals, including the Cambria County Planning Commission, Cambria County Transit Authority, Johnstown Area Heritage Association, Johnstown Area Regional Industries, Vision Together 2025 and Greater Johnstown Regional Partnership, worked on the application for the funding.
Johnstown applied for the same grant in 2020, but was rejected.
“A whole group of people worked together on this to get exactly what they were looking for,” said local business leader William Polacek, CEO and president of JWF Industries. “We worked with every one of our congressmen, senators, governor, state legislators.”
Rose Lucey-Noll, CamTran’s executive director, said the partners are “very excited that we got chosen because it’s a very competitive national grant process.”
The application included approximately:
• $11.3 million for the Johnstown train station;
• $5.7 million for downtown greenways beautification;
• $3.6 million for the CamTran Downtown Intermodal Transportation Center;
• $3 million for urban connectivity trails;
• and $880,000 for the Johnstown Inclined Plane.
“All those things get tied together,” said Daniel Penatzer, Johnstown’s acting city manager. “One component helps the other.”
As part of the plan, the train station is being envisioned by local officials as a “hub for heritage tourism,” according to Richard Burkert, president and CEO of the Johnstown Area Heritage Association, which owns the century-old structure.
“We’ve put nearly a million dollars into stabilizing it,” Burkert said. “That building was endangered. We think it has significant potential, not just for tourism, but to become an anchor for Johnstown transportation, as well as community development.”
Johnstown Mayor Frank Janakovic added: “For the longest time, the city hasn’t had the money to do matches and do projects, so starting with the train station, tying it in with Amtrak’s money and those funds, we’re going to be able to complete a project over there. It will be a renovation of the train station. … The Inclined Plane, it’s the finishing touches on that and redoing the transit center downtown.”
RAISE funds are separate from any money Johnstown may receive as part of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill recently signed by President Joe Biden, a Democrat, and the $30.7 million in American Rescue Plan funds the municipality will get for COVID-19 relief.
“If nothing else, it’s going to complement what we were planning on doing with the $30 million as well, so maybe we can do even more improvements throughout the city with those dollars,” said John Dubnansky, Johnstown community and economic development director.
Dubnansky, like others involved in the process, credited the success of the application to different organizations working together.
“Obviously, this is a gigantic opportunity for the city, one of the largest grant awards the city’s ever received,” Dubnansky said. “We’re so thankful that we get to work with the community partners that we did in assembling the grant application and are now looking forward to working with everybody in the community to implement the projects associated with it.”
U.S. Rep. John Joyce, R-Blair, said he is “grateful to our local community leaders for their vision and diligence to ensure that these resources will be invested wisely in the future and continued growth of Johnstown.”
City officials and agencies involved in the process hope to continue the cooperation on other projects.
“It’s just the beginning,” said Mike Tedesco, president and CEO of Vision Together 2025. “The $24 million is a reflection of Johnstown coming together to get things done. This is just the beginning. There is more to come.”