ODOT turns to residents for input

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 17, 2005

Every other year, the Ohio Department of Transportation takes Lawrence County's pulse.

No, they're not getting into the medical business, but rather presenting their State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) to local residents, not only to inform, but to assess the feelings of those who will be most affected by the plans.

That's not just lip service, but rather a real request for input, said Kathleen Fuller, ODOT District 9 Public Information Officer.

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"It's two-way, it's here for people to present comments to us," Fuller said. "We have a review period that goes on through May and we put people's comments in the STIP package that we then present to the Federal Highway Administration."

At this year's open house, which took place Thursday at Ohio University Southern, most of the day's discourse came from the Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce's Transportation Committee meeting, which took place in the middle of the event.

Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization Assistant Director Ralph Kline kicked off the meeting requesting the endorsement of the committee for the amendment to add a highway corridor to the Appalachian Development Highway System.

The roadway would be called Corridor B-2, an approximate 32-mile stretch of highway that would serve as an outer belt for Huntington, W.Va., Ashland, Ky., and Ironton. It would begin at the intersection of U.S. 23 and Interstate 64 in Ashland, head east into West Virginia, into Lawrence County through a new proposed I-73 Ohio River Crossing to U.S. 52.

The corridor would then proceed along U.S. 52 through what is known locally as the Chesapeake Bypass, before reconnecting to Huntington at the proposed Merritt's Creek Ohio River Bridge ending at I-64.

The motion to endorse the plan was carried by the committee unanimously.

The metropolitan planning organization KYOVA was next on the docket. They were looking for input on some upcoming projects in Ohio, including phase 1B of the Tri-State Metro Outer Belt, the Ironton-Russell Bridge and Ironton signalization improvements.

The only dissent came from Dr. Bill Dingus, who said he thought the $225,000 allocated for KYOVA's plan to implement alternative modes of transportation in Ironton could be better spent after finding out the results of the U.S. 52/State Route 7 Corridor Traffic Safety Study that ODOT is currently conducting.

Dingus said he believed that item would be better placed on KYOVA's long-term schedule, as opposed to the short-term.

ODOT had some information of their own, with some fresh estimates on the oft-delayed Chesapeake Bypass and Ironton-Russell Bridge. District Nine Deputy Director Harry Fry said that the projected completion time for Phase 1B of the bypass is during 2006, but could possibly slide to 2007 in the worst-case scenario.

The Ironton-Russell Bridge is now carrying a $73 million price tag, $3 million more than previously announced. The bridge is still slated to be put out to bid later this year with construction beginning in the spring of 2006.