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Commission wants answers about Chesy Bypass

It’s less than six miles in length but to make the Chesapeake Bypass a reality it will cost close to $200 million.

But right now there is only $10 million committed to it and no definitive timetable for when the project gets off the drawing board.

That lack of concrete plans has inspired the Lawrence County Commissioners to ask why. Those questions have been addressed to those in charge or to those who could be potential partners of what has been recently touted as an outer belt highway system for the Tri-State.

“We typically deal with neighbors-to-neighbors’ road problems, but this is a large infrastructure that is critical to the economic importance of Lawrence County,” Commissioner Bill Pratt said at the commission’s Thursday meeting. “We have several questions, we would like to have answered.”

The commissioners approved sending letters to Michele Craig, executive director of the KYOVA Interstate Planning Commission; and Jerry Wray, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Among the questions in the commissioners’ letter to Craig concern the status of the final design work; the date for the filing of the center line plans so the county can implement building restrictions within that area; acquisition start date; and updated ODOT timeline.

The commissioners, along with Jason Stephens, chairman of KYOVA, and Bob Smith, director of the Chamber of Commerce, also sent a letter to Wray with specific requests as far as the bypass project.

Among those requests are:

That the final design be completed and the center alignment be filed locally and as expediently as possible so the county can take steps to protect the corridor from future development;

That sufficient funds be allocated for acquisition to provide a source of funds to accept voluntary purchases of properties from individuals currently in limbo with their real estate.

Currently ODOT is working on the final design of the 5.2-mile project, according to Kathleen Fuller, ODOT spokesperson.

“We have been tweaking it and making some modifications, how best to build it,” she said.

ODOT’s goal is to avoid the slips and slides that delayed the first phase of the bypass around Proctorville.

“Cutting into those hills, we didn’t want to face that again,” she said. “We may do some acquisition of real estate next year. That is a strong ‘may.’ We don’t have a timetable. It would not be immediate, not early.”

Out of the $10 million currently committed to the project, an estimated $4.5 million will go for the design work; the remainder of that will pay partially for the real estate acquisition. Total cost for acquisition is estimated at $22 million. Construction costs are expected to come in at $156 million.

“About $10 million is committed to the project with the TRAC (Transportation Review Advisory Council) and that is important that they commit money to a project,” Fuller said. “It remains on the TRAC list. It is an active project and we are working on it. But it is not funded. We don’t have a schedule for real estate. … We could get very fortunate and somehow get this project funded. We are not stopping or stalling. We keep working on it.”