Bridge closure spans need for full bypass

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Maybe the four-week closure of the East Huntington Bridge between Proctorville and Huntington, W.Va., is a blessing in disguise.

County leaders should take advantage of this to drive home a crucial point to Columbus.

Now would be a perfect time to invite state transportation officials down to Lawrence County. Would they still think the Chesapeake Bypass, or Tri-State Metro Outer Belt, is unnecessary or a low priority? Let them sit in traffic for a little while and see if their tune changes.

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The long-delayed, under-funded project would build a four-lane road from Rome Township that would bypass the bottlenecks in Proctorville and Chesapeake along State Route 7 and connect to U.S. 52.

This project, if completed, would lessen the already heavy traffic burden on motorists and commuters when something like the recent bridge closure became a necessity.

Cecil Townsend, transportation administrator for the Ohio Department of Transportation's Lawrence County Garage, said having a completed bypass available during the next four weeks would be like night and day.

&#8220It would make all the difference in the world,” Townsend said.

County leaders have four weeks to get ODOT and other state officials down here to see what this project could mean to the entire region.

The East Huntington Bridge was closed Monday and will be reopened before the holidays, but what about that four-week period in between?

What will the county have lost in terms of traffic and business because people would rather not deal with delays and congestion? How many people will decide to keep driving to Barboursville, W.Va., or somewhere else to do their shopping.

Motorists will be detoured to the West 17th Street Bridge or the Robert C. Byrd Bridge near Huntington's downtown Fifth Street. How much easier would that detour be if they could just hop on the bypass?

Yes, the bypass project has cost more than it was originally projected. And, yes, there have been numerous slip and construction problems, neither of which were caused by the residents the project aims to help.

Just because something is difficult doesn't mean it is not worth doing. Where would we be if our forefathers said, &#8220Well, we better not try to sail across the ocean because it will be expensive?”

Now would be the time to show Columbus that Lawrence County is a part of Ohio. Let's quit telling the leaders about our problems and show them.