Long-term projects still priority for ODOT

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 15, 2000

This year’s lack of state funding of Ohio Department of Transportation District 9 projects is not the start of long-term cutbacks, ODOT officials said Monday.

Wednesday, March 15, 2000

This year’s lack of state funding of Ohio Department of Transportation District 9 projects is not the start of long-term cutbacks, ODOT officials said Monday.

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This year, ODOT will do 43 projects in the district, which includes Adams, Brown, Highland, Jackson, Lawrence, Pike, Ross and Scioto counties, totaling $21 million, which is more than a third less than last year’s district budget of more than $70 million, said Holly Snedecor-Gray, public information officer.

"It’s a lot less than we had last year," Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said. "At last year’s leadership conference, there was a call for maintaining multilane highways – interstates and four-lane highways. We’re bringing those roads up to standard."

Road and bridge improvements have been put on hold in District 9 because the eight-county area isn’t in great need of that type of construction, she said.

"Here in District 9, we have just about the best road and bridge conditions," Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said. "We’re tying to even this out. We want consistency throughout the state."

There is a bright side to less money coming this way, she added.

"There will be fewer orange barrels for this summer," Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said.

And the money will come back. It just takes more time to plan for the major construction projects on the horizon for District 9, including three in Lawrence County – the Chesapeake Bypass, the Ironton-Russell Bridge and the widening of Ohio 7 through Proctorville, Mrs. Snedecor-Gray added.

"All are coming up in the next four years," she said.

The first stage of the Chesapeake Bypass, which includes a two-lane connector running from the East Huntington, W.Va., bridge to Ohio 775, and Ohio 775 to Ohio 7 near Athalia, is scheduled to begin construction in mid-summer 2002, Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said.

"The environmental phase is ongoing," she said. "We expect to submit documents to the Federal Highway Administration by November this year."

ODOT also is working on detailed designs of the project, which are scheduled for completion by winter 2001, she added.

"We expect to begin right-of-way acquisition in late 2000," Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said. "And we have an estimated sale date of spring 2002."

This first phase of the bypass should take two years to construct and cost about $26 million.

"We have a public hearing coming up in August 2000," Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said. "We can’t start acquiring right-of-way acquisition until after the meeting."

It will take a little longer to get the Ironton-Russell Bridge replacement project ready for construction, though, she added.

"The environmental phase is ongoing," Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said. "We’ve selected four study corridors and we’re taking all of them forward into the field work."

ODOT officials are estimating environmental clearance in 2002, but completion of the design and right-of-way acquisition has not been determined, she said.

"We have a tentative sale date for 2003," Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said.

Construction also should begin that year and it will take about two to three construction seasons to complete.

The project will cost about $33 million. Another public hearing will be scheduled in the spring.

Crews have already begun the first phase of the Ohio 7 widening project.

Big Paddy Creek Bridge, which is located east of Proctorville, currently is being replaced with a wider, newer bridge in preparation for this project.

ODOT officials are working on both the environmental study and design at this time and both should be completed by this summer, Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said.

"We will begin right-of-way acquisition in mid-summer and it should be completed in early fall 2001," she said. "The sale date is January 2002 and construction is scheduled to begin spring 2002."

The project should take a year to a year and a half to complete and will cost about $4.5 million.

This Lawrence County project worries ODOT officials more than the others, said Dave Bame, transportation administrator.

"The biggest obstacle for this project is the maintenance of traffic," he said.

Ohio 7 will not be closed during this project, however, and officials will continue to discuss the best way to maintain traffic flow when construction begins, Mrs. Snedecor-Gray said.

Public comment and opinion will be considered. The first public meeting on the project will be scheduled in April, she said.