Will bridge project move forward?

Published 10:24 am Wednesday, May 4, 2016

County to make the decision

Apparently there are only two choices regarding a controversial bridge replacement project to be undertaken by the Ohio Department of Transportation. Now it is up to Lawrence County officials to make the call to go forward or not.

A state program paid for by federal funds would totally cover the cost of replacing three bridges — County Road 4, County Road 6 and County Road 13.

The proposed ODOT detour for the County Road 4 project would take residents of that area approximately 21 miles out of their way over what they have termed rural roads for 60 days. Their concerns are the inconvenience and the difficulty for first responders to get into the area.

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Lawrence County Engineer Patrick Leighty proposed the county build and pay for an access road that would eliminate the detour.

However, at a meeting of the commissioners two weeks ago, Vaughn Wilson, ODOT District 9 director, said he would have to check with the legal department.

Now the apparent answer is No.

“There are two options,” Kathleen Fuller, ODOT District 9 public information officer, said. “Have the contractor get it done in a 30-day window or not perform the work. We would ask them to expedite but you still have the weather. There is no guarantee and you can get into a lot of weather delay.”

If the county decided not to continue with that part of the project that bridge would be pulled, Fuller said.

“The county engineer and the county commission …that would be their decision to let us know,” Fuller said.

ODOT is already working on County Road 13.

The Federal Highway Administration is funding the project.

“It is federal money down to the state to allow us to put this packet together,” Fuller said. “We are doing the best to leverage the money.”

Leighty said the county will have to review the need for the project.

“We will have to go back and evaluate if we really want to put that type of expense on the traveling public,” he said. “That is still an excessive detour even for 30 days. That is 1 million miles of detour at a cost of $540,000 using the federal rate of mileage of 54 cents. And that just addresses the money issue, not having to have fire and EMS go through the detour. You have a 40-minute delay.”