The city of Cumberland received a $250,000 grant Wednesday from the Appalachian Regional Commission for improvements on Baltimore Street — shown here on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2016 — and surrounding streets. (Photo by CTN – Steve Bittner)
CUMBERLAND — The Appalachian Regional Commission Wednesday announced approval of a $250,000 grant to Cumberland for improvements to downtown.
The federal grant requires a matching contribution from the city, bringing the total funding package to $500,000. Improvements designated in the grant are for Baltimore Street and surrounding roads.
The announcement was made through press releases from ARC and U.S. Rep. John Delaney’s office.
Delaney said the grant is to “conduct planning, engineering and design for road improvements on Baltimore Street and surrounding roads in Cumberland.”
The city began exploring plans in 2015 to open the downtown pedestrian mall to vehicular and bicycle traffic. After including public input, a plan to place roads between Mechanic and Liberty streets and Centre and George streets garnered the most interest.
“My initial reaction is that this is a show of support for Cumberland and our plans to move the community forward,” Cumberland Mayor Brian Grim said. “The fact that Maryland and other agencies have faith in our community and plans for our future is encouraging.”
Grim said final plans for the downtown pedestrian mall are not formalized and a complete design was still being analyzed.
In recent years, there has been a push in Washington by some lawmakers to discontinue federal funding of ARC. Delaney said in the news release that he will continue to oppose any plan to end ARC funding.
“This ARC grant is all about jobs and economic development; it’s good for Cumberland and is another step in downtown revitalization,” he said. “This is a partnership between the city and the federal government, and I commend Mayor Grim and all city officials for stepping up and getting this done. Projects like this are why I’m fighting hard for a new infrastructure program in Congress and why I’ve called for more federal support for Western Maryland and Appalachia.”
Both ARC and Delaney said the grant funds will create 50 jobs and help to leverage private investment. Grim said the improvements will increase economic development in the city’s downtown.
“Ultimately the plan — with whatever the design may be — the goal is to create more economic activity, increase vehicle traffic and promote small business,” Grim said. “When the large businesses left the area, they took many of the people with them. We need diversity in our businesses. We recognize diversity is a good thing. Investing in the downtown is investing in our community.”
The project to renovate the downtown mall will include adding new underground plumbing and electrical line as well as high-speed fiber optic cable. The cost of the entire project is expected to cost more than $5 million.
The Appalachian Regional Commission was established by Congress in 1965 as a regional economic development agency that represents a partnership between federal, state and local governments. Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties are designated ARC counties.