Locals to push for bypass funding

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 7, 2004

Lawrence County officials are heading to Columbus today in hopes of changing minds and securing future funding for Phase 2 of the Tri-State Metro Outer Belt, formerly known as the Chesapeake Bypass.

The Ohio Department of


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Review Advisory Committee (TRAC) will meet meet for a final vote on the draft project list for 2005-2010. The list was approved last December, but Lawrence County leaders appealed after learning that the remainder of the outer belt project was completely left off the list. It is estimated that property acquisition for Phase 2 will be between $15 and $20 million.

Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization Executive Director of Development Ralph Kline said local officials will use their 30-minute appearance before the committee to not only request that the project reinstated and funded on as a TRAC project, but to get design plans completed and officially recorded. Kline said local leaders also plan to request that ODOT, KYOVA and the West Virginia Department of Transportation work more closely in the future on traffic-related issues.

Kline said he and other officials plan to reemphasize that the outer-belt project is not just a bypass around a rural area, but a necessary highway that will increase economic development potential and ease traffic congestion in a rapidly growing area.

Kline said delaying the outer-belt project will only drive up construction and land acquisition costs later on - something that happened years ago when Phase 1 was proposed and designed but not funded.

" I don't want to see history repeat itself.

I don't want to see designs done and 20 years later standards change and new studies come out and the old design plans are obsolete and we're back to ground zero, spending more money on designs," Kline said. "Highways won't get any cheaper, and this (eastern end of the county) is a rapid- growth area. We're seeing real estate values go up."

Kline is expected to address the committee, along with the past president of the greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce Robert Dalton,

and KYVOA Planning Commission representative Michelle Craig.

Lawrence County Commissioners also plan to attend the meeting. Both Commissioners Jason Stephens and George Patterson said they are optimistic about the chances that state officials will change their minds.

"It's an important day," Stephens said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to (change TRAC members' minds). I don't know if we should bring pitchforks or smiles. I think the facts are on our side."

"We don't know if they'll throw out a crumb for us or what they'll do, but I know Ralph (Kline) and Bob Dalton have a good presentation," Patterson said.

He added that state funding for

property acquisition is not only an important matter for local government officials, but also for property owners who own land in that area and are in limbo about whether or not the state will buy their land.