Bypass gets shot in the arm

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 3, 2007

An amendment to the budget bill that alters the Ohio Department of Transportation’s priorities could open up funding for the Chesapeake Bypass.

The transportation budget (House Bill 67) was passed in March with a provision preventing ODOT from completing Tier 2 projects until Tier 1 projects, as of Dec. 20, 2006, are completed.

The bypass had been a Tier 1 project, but fell out of that status when it entered Phase 2.

Email newsletter signup

After phases 1A and 1B

were completed, Phase 2 was returned to the planning phase for further development by ODOT and consultants, putting the project on hold.

Sen. John Carey proposed a plan in the general budget that passed last week that he hopes will provide a way for the bypass construction to continue.

“I amended the law to say that any project that had been a Tier 1 project could be finished, which helps the Chesapeake Bypass to be back in line for funding,” the Wellston Republican said. “I think that will give us a better shot of moving the project forward. I’ve talked to the governor about it and I know it’s a priority of his as well as mine.”

Now, ODOT is re-examining all of its projects, he said.

The Transportation Review Advisory Council, created by the Ohio General Assembly in 1997, certifies the amount of money to be available for the Ohio Department of Transportation’s major new highway projects.

The problem facing ODOT with this new legislation is financing all the projects.

“Now, to complete all the projects we would face a $1.2 billion deficit just to complete the Tier 1 projects,” said Scott Varner, spokesman and deputy director for ODOT. “ODOT faces some serious financial realities here about how we fund all of the projects. (The problem) is from an overcommitment by TRAC and the previous administration for the number of projects.”

According to TRAC, a project considered a major new project is one that costs more than $5 million and must do one of the following: reduce congestion, increase mobility, provide connectivity or increase a region’s accessibility for economic development.