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Chesapeake Bypass, bridge focus of annual transportation discussion

COLUMBUS — Supporters of the long-sought Chesapeake Bypass will go to the state next week to seek more funding for the project that will link Huntington, W.Va., directly to Ironton.

Tom Barnitz, ODOT District 9 planning and engineering administrator, said Phase 1A and 1B are completed and ODOT will continue to seek funding for Phase 2 for the project, also called the Tri-State Outer Belt, next week at a meeting of the Transportation Review Advisory Committee.

Barnitz presented his update during the transportation session of the 27th annual Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Day on Thursday at the Statehouse in Columbus.

“We are fairly far along in design,” Barnitz said. “We decided to change the project from a four lane to a two lane facility, but maintain truck climbing facilities in specific locations.”

ODOT plans to ask the TRAC for an estimated $17 million for right-of-way acquisition and $62 million in construction costs. Barnitz said while the bypass is currently designed as a two-lane project, expansion to four-lane is ODOT’s goal.

If funding is secure, construction could begin in 2016. Barnitz said two construction seasons is the estimated time for completion for the long-discussed bypass connecting Chesapeake and Proctorville.

Barnitz also reported the Ironton-Russell Bridge is about 25 percent complete, with the target date for the opening set for the fall 2015.

There are approximately 192 miles of State Highways, 318 miles of County Roads, 372 miles of Township Roads and 329 bridges in Lawrence County – which require maintenance, upgrading and sometimes replacement.

Traffic safety in the county was another topic at the session. Four of the five intersections along U.S. 52 have the highest accident rates are in the Burlington area, according to Lawrence County Engineer Doug Cade.

“We are looking at ways to reduce the number of accidents we have,” Cade said. “We can replace cars, but we can’t replace people.”

There is a backup of cars on U.S. 52 as drivers attempt to get on Interstate 64 at Chesapeake. The sign for Huntington, W.Va., may need to be closer to the intersection, Cade said.

The Portsmouth Bypass was also brought up during the transportation discussion. While in Scioto County, Vaughn Wilson, ODOT District 9 deputy director, said it is still important to Lawrence County. He mentioned the importance of creating a highway that would help bring more traffic to southern Ohio because more traffic means more jobs, he said.

Ralph Kline, co-chairman of the Chamber’s transportation committee, said the Chamber supports the project, which is currently on hold as state officials seek a public-private partnership to fund it.