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Paving project causes bumpy travel

It is not easy being Phil Biggs right now.

The Ironton engineer has had to field a lot of complaints about the rough roadways that sections of some streets have been transformed into. But he is optimistic, knowing that the city will soon have smooth new streets and better accessibility for its handicapped citizens.

The city is in the midst of a massive project, repaving large sections of Third and Sixth streets amongst others, including some Fifth Street intersections. Work will also be done on Park Avenue, which is being saved for last due to how busy that thoroughfare can be.

The nearly $700,000 project is being funded by the Federal Highway Administration through the Ohio Department of Transportation with matching funds from the Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone.

The past weeks have seen Third and Sixth streets being "milled" - removing old asphalt in preparation for new paving and to allow better flow of storm drains.

Unfortunately, the milling process creates a lot of dust, and a bumpy trip for commuters.

Biggs is quick to explain he understands the milled streets are not at all fun to drive on.

"They're terrible, they're terrible," Biggs said. "I've had local property owners on the Fifth Street location ask us why we did what we did. But we have to do this milling to allow the subcontractors to do the work they need to do before the actual asphalt can be put on it."

"Unfortunately, the level of disturbance is quite a bit, because it's quite an extensive area."

Though motorists have had a rough ride lately, the city's utility workers are not exactly having a smooth ride either. They have found several issues that have slowed down the paving process.

"We're discovering a number of problems with existing drainage structures that have to be addressed," Biggs said. "If I were speculating, I would say that we have to address fix with 45 to 50 percent of the existing storm drain boxes."

Paving was originally set to begin on Sixth Street this week, but Biggs said he believes a start early next week is probably more realistic, especially with wet weather in the forecast.

Only about a third of the milling has been completed, but those milled areas will be paved before any more milling is done.

"I know it seems like a gargantuan area has been milled," Biggs said. "But really it's the volume and length of Park Avenue that's really going to be a majority of the process."

It may seem like slow going, but there are some major benefits on the way for patient travelers.

There will be improved appearance on the newly paved streets, improved performance in storm drains, and, maybe most importantly, improved accessibility for those with handicaps.

"The handicap ramps are another major benefit because much of the city doesn't allow handicapped folks to function other than to ride down the street in a wheelchair," Biggs said.

In the meantime however, motorists must endure bumpy, milled roads, but perhaps the drive will be a bit easier knowing that there is a smooth ride in the future, for them and their neighbors with disabilities.