Chesapeake Bypass off TRAC list
Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 10, 2004
When the state's Transportation Review Advisory Council released the tentatively approved $3.7 billion project list for 2005-2010, one local project was noticeably absent - the Chesapeake Bypass.
As it was originally planned, the four-phased Chesapeake Bypass project includes the construction of a four-lane, divided highway spanning approximately nine miles eastbound from State Route 527 to State Route 7, just south of Athalia.
Phase 1A has been completed and Phase 1B is under construction. As of right now, no monies have been allocated for phases 2 and 3.
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It is estimated construction and land acquisition will cost $125 million for phases 2 and 3.
"From ODOT's end, we approach the TRAC with projects that we plan to pursue and hope that the projects are given careful consideration, deemed purposeful and needful, for lack of better terms, and put into the council's funding schedule," said Kathleen Fuller, public information officer for ODOT's District 9.
"Although the Chesapeake Bypass is not on the TRAC's draft list, it does not necessarily mean that the project is dead. It does mean, though, that we'll have much more work to do in order to secure funding for the project."
Because no money is available, no timetable for the land acquisition can be made. ODOT will continue to look for federal funding sources to pay for projects not included on the TRAC list, Fuller said.
The problem is that cost overruns on the first two phases have depleted funding for the project. While the Ohio Department of Transportation continues to search for additional funds, property owners in the Proctorville area are left looking toward an uncertain future.
Approximately 108 parcels of property may be affected by phases 2 and 3, Fuller said.
Former Proctorville resident Buddy Martin is one property owner who has been left in a state of uncertainly. Martin owns 12 to 15 acres at 1396 County Road 32. Because his property was right in the way of the bypass, he has moved Scioto County.
Now, hearing the news that the future of the project is in question, he said it "is very frustrating for me and a lot of the neighbors."
"I had been told for five years that they would buy the land," he said. "If I had never been in the bypass' path, I would still be living there. That is the bottom line."
Martin said the whole project is a mess, especially for someone like him who had to go ahead and move now because it would have been impossible to do so in 60 days. Now, he is left paying two house payments.
"I have expressed my views in Columbus several times. For the people whose property is in the bypass' path, they are in 'Never, Never Land,' as for future planning," he said. "If I wanted to sell my home, who is going to buy it?"
After living in downtown Proctorville for the past 68 years, Dale Burcham has heard talk of the project since the 1950s and knows first-hand what the project means to the community.
"It would be a sin if they did not complete it. An absolute sin," he said. "I think it would be letting down southeastern Ohio if they don't finish it. We have waited long enough and we deserve it."
Though the work that has been done has been a tremendous improvement, finishing the entire project would help all the businesses and the entire Proctorville community, Burcham said.
"The overall project would relieve a lot of traffic and congestion," he said. "To the residents, it would make us a nice little residential community again. Prior to this, a lot of people would not stop at the stores to shop because of all the congestion."
Dr. Bill Dingus was recently named to the TRAC committee, but said he cannot comment in that capacity about the issue. However, as executive director of the Greater Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation, he couldn't stress enough the importance if the bypass.
"For the benefit of community development, the bypass is a very strategic part of our county," he said. "The absence of that part of the highway severs the relationships, continuity and commerce between the eastern and western part of the county."
Dingus said he hopes that the work of KYOVA and others groups such as the transportation committee can show the value and importance of
finishing the project.
Bob Dalton, chairman of the Chamber's transportation planning committee, said he realizes that ODOT has the tough task of funding all the project, but that now is the right time to purchase the land to ensure that the project will happen sometime.
"We have a problem here and we have already started on it," he said. "There will never be a better time to move forward than right now."
Congressman Ted Strickland is equally concerned about the bypass.
"Promises were made and now we have to hold their feet to the fire," he said. "A promise is a promise. If we aren't alert and determined, there could be a decision that could eliminate the bypass from the TRAC plan."
Phase 1A constructed the State Route 607 connector. This $6.58 million part was completed in May 2003.
Phase 1B, an approximately $22.1 million project, includes the construction of a 4.5-mile, two-lane route from State Route 607 and Irene Road East to the existing State Route 7, just north of Fairland East Elementary. The project will also include the construction of intersections with State Route 775 and Kinley Avenue.
It is now under construction and scheduled to be completed in 2005.
It would also include the construction of three interchanges: one at State Route 527 and Shafer Town Road in the west; one at state routes 607 and 775 in the central portion; and one at State Route 243, via Kinley Avenue, in the east.
Phase 2 of the project will involve the construction of two eastbound lanes to State Route 527. Phase 3 will involve completing the construction of the full build alternative, two westbound lanes and completion of the interchanges.
The Transportation Review Advisory Council was created by the Ohio General Assembly in 1997 to bring a fair, numbers-driven system to choosing major new transportation projects. The TRAC currently has 96 projects under construction, or to be constructed, totaling $7.6 billion.
The draft project list will be subject to a 90-day public comment period before the TRAC approves a final list in May.
A complete list of the projects receiving funding can be viewed at the TRAC's Web site at http://www.dot.state. oh.us/trac.