Next phase of Chesy Bypass ready to roll

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 14, 2003

ROME TOWNSHIP - The Chesapeake Bypass - more than 30 years in the discussion stage - is taking another step forward. Construction crews began this week clearing and grubbing the site for Phase 1-B of the bypass project.

During the $26.8 million Phase 1-B, a two-lane roadway will be built between Irene Road at Proctorville and a point near Fairland East Elementary School on State Route 7. Work should take a year to complete.

Thursday night, Ohio Department of Transportation District Nine officials, representatives with the general contractor, Elmo Greer and Sons Inc. and some of that entity's consultants met with Rome Township residents to discuss blasting operations in preparation for the construction of the roadway.

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Melvin Maxey, drilling and blasting supervisor for Elmo Greer and Sons said blasting is likely to occur in three areas. The first blasting will take place Tuesday on a stretch of property near First Baptist Church of Proctorville. Later, blasting will level areas of hillside along Little Paddy Creek near the Lena Ash subdivision and an area near LaBelle-Four Mile Road at Bartramsville Road.

Maxey said people in Rome Township will be warned ahead of time that blasting is about to take place by two series of sirens. Three minutes before an explosion, there will be three long sirens. One minute before a blast there will be a series of three short sirens. He said people who have a complaint in the first three weeks of operation should contact the contractor's London, Ky., office at 606-843-6136. Maxey said he hopes to have a field office opened in two to three weeks.

"We want to be a good neighbor to these people," Maxey said. "We need their cooperation."

Greg Williams, blasting consultant for Engineering Dynamics of Staffordsville, Ky., said although there are few houses within a 1500 feet radius of the blasting sites, vibration and air blasts will be monitored during blasting.

"We are concerned about ground vibration and air blasts. We're designing the blasts so it doesn't happen. That doesn't mean it couldn't happen," Williams said.

Elmo Greer, vice president of Elmo Greer and Sons, Inc. and chief operating officer of the highways division said the company is committed to environmental sensitivity and to protecting the traveling public and the people who live in the area.

This is what we do, we making a living building highways," Greer said. "We are the contractor for the new Cincinnati Airport runway. The other day we had Delta Airlines landing and taking off on a parallel runway while we were putting off three blasts. We have have an excellent blasting record."

This is the company's first project in Ohio; it has been in business 60 years and has built roads throughout the southeastern part of the United States.

At Thursday's public meeting, Rome Township trustee Dean Cooper expressed concern about the possibility of damage to a township road atop LaBelle-Four Mile Hill. Cooper said he is worried that the road, already in poor condition, will be damaged due to blasting.

"That's the only way these people have in and out," Cooper said. "And it's already coming down now a little at a time."

Construction representatives said they doubted the road would be affected by the blasting.

Greg Minetti, with Chester Engineering in Huntington, W.Va., said area drinking water wells are being inspected prior to and after blasting to monitor any changes in water quality. Pre-blasting surveys are also being conducted of houses in the area to document their condition and scout for potential problems.

Maxey warned people to stay out of the construction area during the building of the roadway, and to keep their children out of the area as well. Maxey said people should not ride their four-wheelers onto construction sites at any time, whether or not blasting is taking place.

"Tell your children, no more four-wheeling on the project. We're doing a lot of work out there, dozers are running and sometimes they ride up too close to the equipment. They could be hurt out there," Maxey said. "This is driving us crazy. We seed the slopes and then the four wheelers come and take out the grass and then the slopes wash out."

Phyllis Moore, who lives on LaBelle-Four Mile Road, said her greatest concern is the safety of the water in her cistern. If the contractors can assure her that her drinking water will be OK, she has no problem with the construction.

"That's the only way I have to get water," Moore said. "The project is fine with me. It's going to help the traffic. I'm worried about the road, too. So far I'm satisfied with what they have to say."

David Bane, ODOT District Nine area engineer for construction said Phase 1-B differs from the first leg of the project in that this time, hilltops will be coming off to make room for the roadway. During phase 1-A, blasting was done but it was to collect soil to fill in low-lying areas for the project.

ODOT spokeswoman Kathleen Fuller said this is one of the larger projects for district nine this year.

Phase 1-A of the bypass, which extends State Route 607 from the 31st Street/East Huntington Bridge to the newly constructed Irene Road East and connects with State Route 775, opened this spring.

Funding for Phase 2, a 4-mile stretch from Chesapeake to State Route 607 at the foot of the East Huntington Bridge, are up in the air, said ODOT Director Gordon Proctor said earlier this year during a meeting in Columbus with local government and business officials.

"The problem is the cost of the first job soared so badly that we don't have the funds for the second phase acquisition," he said. Most of the cost overruns are due to extreme differences in the amount budgeted for property acquisition and the amount needed. Phase 2 is now estimated to cost $76.5 million, he said.