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Officials map out Chesapeake bypass

ROME – Margie Gillespie almost built a home at Tower Estates in a vacant lot adjacent to her father’s home about two years ago.

Friday, August 27, 1999

ROME – Margie Gillespie almost built a home at Tower Estates in a vacant lot adjacent to her father’s home about two years ago. Now Mrs. Gillespie is glad she didn’t build on the property, which is located out Ohio 775. She found out Thursday at an Ohio Department of Transportation public meeting at Fairland High School that her late father’s home and the lot will be taken when property acquisition begins for the Chesapeake Bypass.

"We were going to build there, but we didn’t," Mrs. Gillespie said. "Part of it had to do with the road. There were rumors. Of course, there’s been rumors for 20 years. But the traffic was getting so backed up you knew they would have to do something soon."

And even though Mrs. Gillespie said she will be losing part of her heritage when ODOT purchases the property, she said it was for a good cause – progress.

"I don’t like losing my dad’s home," Mrs. Gillespie said. "He built the house. But I think we need the bypass. Traffic is terrible through here."

There are two proposed plans for the bypass – corridor A and B4 – which will take traffic off of Ohio 7 and redirect it from the East Huntington Bridge to an area south of Athalia where it will reconnect to Ohio 7 to alleviate the current traffic congestion, said Holly Snedecor-Gray, ODOT public information officer for District 9.

The corridor A proposal for the four-lane divided highway would require ODOT to acquire 275 residential properties, five commercial properties and one cemetery.

The cost of right-of-way acquisition would be about $22.7 million, which makes the proposal less desirable, Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said.

The more likely proposal is corridor B4, which would only require 106 residential properties and three commercial properties, and cost about $12.6 million, she added.

"Basically we want to give the people an opportunity to look at both alternatives," Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said. "But alternate B4 is more likely to be built. The number of relocations and the cost is lower. But we didn’t come in here with a closed mind. We want to get feedback from the residents."

Once ODOT officials receive comments about the different sites, they will continue their environmental studies, and, hopefully, make a decision by late fall or early winter 2000, said Larry Hill, ODOT District 9 planning administrator.

"Once we complete the formal plans, we will have another public hearing to announce our decision," Hill said. "We’re hoping to have the site approved by fall of 2000, and the plans completed that winter."

After announcing the site for the proposed bypass, property acquisition will begin, Hill added.

"We’d like to start construction in early spring 2002," he said. "You have to have a goal to shoot for and that’s our goal."

Once the project is started, it should take about two years to complete phase one, Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said.

Ruth Gibson is not looking forward to that day, however.

Mrs. Gibson purchased a home at the end of Tower Drive about two years ago, and she’ll be able to keep it.

"When we bought the house, no one told us there was a possibility that a road would go through there," she said. "I moved here, because it was quiet.

"They are going to take the house beside us, dead end the road and take part of my property to build (a circular drive). The highway will be within 50 feet of my home. My concern is that there will be so much noise over there. I’d rather they take my property than leave me sitting there."

That is still a possibility, however, Hill said.

ODOT officials will continue to reevaluate their plans until property acquisition begins. It is possible that they will purchase more land than they need, Hill said.

"There are different cases," he said. "If they take part of someone’s land, that’s taken into account. But I’m not aware of any provisions if they don’t take any of your property."

And many things could happen between now and the property acquisition phase to delay the project, Hill said.

Even though ODOT’s commitment to this project is strong, officials cannot predict the future, he said.

"This project was stopped years ago, because of a gas crisis in the 1970s," Hill said. "The money dried up. Anything is possible. We have as much assurance as we can have that this project will go forward. We know that we have $30 million available. And, hopefully, there will be no major stumbling blocks."