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Group asks for bypass expansion

Local officials are not taking "no" or "maybe" or "wait until later" for an answer on funding for the Tri-State Metro Outer Belt Project, also known as the Chesapeake Bypass.

Greater Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dr. Bill Dingus and Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization Assistant Director Ralph Kline were in Washington, D.C., Thursday, requesting that the bypass project be added to the Appalachian Development Highway System. This would make the project eligible for new sources of funding.

"This could be a major plus for our area," Commissioner George Patterson said.

"It could give us more leverage."

The ADHS was created by the U.S. Congress in 1964 to foster economic development in the region.

Under the proposal to amend the ADHS, a 32-mile segment of

roadway between the intersection of U.S. 23 and Interstate 64 at Catlettsburg, Ky., and would follow the interstate eastward into West Virginia before crossing into Lawrence County and through the proposed Interstate 73 crossing to U.S. 52. then would turn eastward in Lawrence County and follow State Route 7 and the completed phases of the bypass before crossing the Ohio River again into West Virginia at Merritt's Creek.

Last year, the Ohio Department of Transportation removed Phase 2 of the project from its list of second-tier projects

- projects that would not be funded during the next five years but were still on the department's radar screen. This prompted an outcry by local officials who have long contended the roadway, if completed, could be a powerful economic tool for the region and the state.

Phase 2 was put back on the state's tier 2 list in January after U.S. Sixth District Congressman Ted Strickland obtained $1.25 million in federal funds for land acquisition.

"We keep trying, we keep pushing," Commissioner Jason Stephens said. "This is not a partisan issue. It's a Lawrence County issue."

The ADHS system is comprised of some 3,100 miles of roadway and has been amended in the past.