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Chesapeake Bypass receives mixed reception

ROME TOWNSHIP - Lawrence County fairgoers have an extra route available to them - the recently-opened portion of the Chesapeake Bypass.

Now, a fairgoer traveling from west of Proctorville can take the 31st Street Bridge exit, and instead of turning onto the bridge, the fairgoer can make a right turn onto the newly constructed State Route 607. This route loops around the village of Proctorville.

A driver can then take a right turn onto Irene Road, County Road 403, and travel straight through the intersection of it and State Route 775. The new route ends at State Route 7, where a left turn will eventually place a driver a short distance from the fairgrounds.

Lawrence County Fair Board President Doug Clark said the full impact of the bypass cannot be measured until the road is completed. However, he does appreciate the Ohio Department of Transportation cancelling construction on the State Route 7 widening project for the fair week. This project will also help the fair in the future by significantly reducing travel time for those attending, he said.

"We appreciate the cooperation from the county to the state," Clark said. "They're super to work with."

Moving the fair entrance from State Route 7 to State Route 243 in recent years has also helped fair traffic, Clark said.

However, Sgt. Jeff Rood of the Proctorville Police Department said Irene Road has become as congested as State Route 7 at times.

Margie Burcham, a South Point resident who has manned the Lawrence County 911 booth at the fair, said the new road has done nothing but move some traffic coming to and from Huntington, W.Va., off State Route 7. She did not use the bypass while traveling to the fair from her office in Ironton.

"There's no point unless you're coming from Huntington," she said. "If you're coming straight through the county, it dosen't benefit you."

Marty Kersher, a service area coordinator for Lawrence County CAO Head Start, is manning a booth for her office, which is located in Ironton. Office representatives have attended the fair for at least five years.

"I didn't know it was there," she said. "There are so many construction projects that you get used to seeing them."

However, Kersher said she noticed that traffic in Proctorville was lighter during her traveling this week.

Her office's assistant director, Karen Justice, also noticed this.

"I see that it made a difference in the fair traffic," she said. "Driving through Proctorville was easier."