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County projects discussed at Legislative Day

COLUMBUS — One of the sessions of Lawrence County Legislative Day on Wednesday, “Freight and Logistics, a Centerpiece of Economic Development,” focused on transportation and economic development and several leaders from the county discussed upcoming projects throughout the county as well as the status of current projects.

“We decided to combine economic development and transportation,” Ralph Kline, of the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, said as he gave a welcome to the session. “They’re so interrelated in our community, and a lot of our topics have to be coordinated between the two.”

Kline said transportation and economic development are very important to Lawrence County, as it’s the entrance point for travelers coming through the Appalachian Mountains as well as having the means for every type of transportation.

The first speaker was Meagan Barnes, from Superior Marine, who spoke about a local initiative for containerized freight on the Ohio River.

Six states are a part of the effort, setting up Marine Highway-70 (M-70), which mirrors Interstate 70, and would provide a system for businesses to access inland waterway transportation and container on barge transportation through collective sourcing shipments.

Following Barnes was Daryl Hennessy, Karen Fabiano and Mary Oakley, from the Ohio Development Services Agency, talking about its involvement with county projects.

“We’ve worked with the Ironton downtown revitalization, with the Gateway Center, putting sidewalks and around Fruth Pharmacy and we assisted with The Point,” Oakley said. “The interchange at Solida Road is on our radar, and we’re in contact with organizers about that.”

Mark Lockner, with the Department of Transportation Maritime Administration, followed up to speak about the maritime initiatives before Ohio Department of Transportation District 9 director Vaughn Wilson, engineer Dave Beekman and public information officer Kathleen Fuller talked about ODOT’s current projects, including the Southern Ohio Veterans Memorial Highway and the new Ironton-Russell Bridge, and projects on the horizon, such as the second phase of the Chesapeake Bypass, set to be completed this summer and the third phase set to be completed next summer.

Wilson said the bridge is on schedule to open to traffic by November of this year, with the demolition of the existing bridge in the spring or summer of next year.

The Southern Ohio Veterans Memorial Highway, or the Portsmouth Bypass, is the single largest project in the history of ODOT, and is expected to be completed by April 2019.