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More funds recommended for Chesy bypass

CHESAPEAKE — It may seem like a small blip, but the Chesapeake Bypass is still on the state’s radar screen.

Friday, the Ohio Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) recommended that $3 million be allocated for detailed design work for the second phase of the bypass project.

The 5.2-mile roadway at Ohio 7 is to connect Chesapeake with the existing Proctorville portion of the bypass that was opened to traffic in 2006.

Once completed the bypass would form the northern outer belt around the Tri-State metropolitan area. The goal for the outer belt is to ease local traffic congestion and provide alternative routing when I-64 is closed or backed up.

Problems came about during the construction of the Proctorville bypass when road slips caused construction delays. That caused officials to take a second look at the Chesapeake project.

“A few years back we took a redesign look,” Kathleen Fuller, an ODOT spokesperson, said.

It is financing that redesign that the proposed monies would fund.

“This $3 million is new money, not any money for construction,” Fuller said. “The detailed design is very important and significant for continuing this project. When you have a final detailed design on paper, you can say, ‘Here, we can move forward with the project,’ if funding becomes available for construction and real estate.”

Right now there is $3.9 million in funding that was earmarked in the federal budget by Ted Strickland when he was the 6th District Congressman and current Rep. Charlie Wilson. Of that, $1.2 million has been set aside for real estate acquisition.

“I think it is not everything we want,” Ralph Kline, assistant executive director of the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, said on hearing this news. “At least it is a positive step.”

The Chesapeake Bypass and the Portsmouth Bypass were the only two of six projects that were part of the Southeast Ohio Plan that have not been developed.

“We believe they shouldn’t have been taken out, but it appears they have been placed back on,” said Kline, who heads up the transportation committee of the Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce. “We would like to have money set aside for the acquisition and phase II construction. We realize the state of Ohio, as well as all states are having major issues as far as funding any projects.”

The public can offer its input on the project through May 3. The council is expected to finalize the list at its meeting on May 13. Public comment can be made online at www.dot.state.oh.us/TRAC.

“I am glad they are moving on it. It is about time,” Chesapeake Village Mayor Dick Gilpin said. “I am glad they are still pursuing it.”