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ODOT plan released

As the Ohio Department of Transportation unveils its 2008-2009 business plan,

it appears unlikely that Lawrence County residents will see any work done on two anticipated projects in the immediate future.

The start date for replacing the Ironton-Russell Bridge remains at least six years away. Originally, when the project was let in 2006,

bids for a one-tower structure far exceeded the state’s estimate of $99 million. The lowest bid came in at $110 million.

The state is working with consultants to come up with a two-tower structure with a desired price tag of around $80 million.

“The date tentatively is 2013,’’ said

Kathleen Fuller, public information officer for ODOT District 9. “We are working to move that up.’’

However, the second phase of the Chesapeake Bypass that would relocate Ohio 7 at Proctorville to connect it at Chesapeake remains at a Tier 2 status.

Landslides that slowed down construction of the first phase of the bypass that relocated Ohio 7 around Proctorville forced engineers to reevaluate the topography of the area. More geotechnical work was required.

“Phase II is in a redesign mode,’’ Fuller said. “The redesign is nearing completion. It is on hold because there is no funding for the project itself. … At the time we completed Phase I, Phase II was not considered a Tier 1 project. Whether it gets moved up, I don’t know.’’

Every other year ODOT must revise its business plan that is used as a forecasting tool looking at projects six to seven years in advance. The transportation budget is approved every two years but ODOT needs a plan that is more long-term.

“The plan allows us to look at those future years because we have such a sizable capital improvement budget,” said Scott Varner, ODOT Deputy Director. “Those projects take years to plan and tens and hundreds of millions to build.”

In a press release, ODOT Director James Beasley stated, “Ohio cannot simply build its way out of congestion. We must fully embrace a multi-modal approach — with an integrated network of highway, rail, transit, aviation and waterway. Our transportation infrastructure also contributes to job creation, so we must broaden our criteria for project selection to better understand the impacts to economic development and urban revitalization.”

What is moving forward is the Portsmouth Bypass in Scioto County that will create Scioto 823 from U.S. 23 just north of Lucasville to U.S. 52 at Wheelersburg. Structure removal, such as garages and barns, on land on which the state has full ownership has begun.

Additional real estate acquisition is also under way.

The first phase will be the middle portion of the roughly 17-mile bypass, which has a price tag of $405 million.

“That is moving along quite well,’’ Fuller said.