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Funding proposal for Chesapeake Bypass denied

Jul. 26, 2013 @ 12:20 AM

CHESAPEAKE, Ohio -- The Transportation Review Advisory Committee in Ohio on Thursday voted down a proposal to set aside $16 million in state funds for right-of-way acquisition needed to complete the Chesapeake Bypass project, also called the Tri-State Outer Belt.

"I'm extremely disappointed," said Lawrence County Engineer Doug Cade. "It's put residents in the project corridor in limbo for another year."

Cade said Dr. Bill Dingus, executive director of the Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce and a committee member, did everything he could to get the money. The motion for funding for the bypass project was rejected by a vote of 6-3.

"We thought we had a commitment under the Southern Ohio plan," said Ralph Kline, chairman of the chamber's transportation committee. "The design work is done. They've done the design three or four times. They've done the environmental studies. We've been very patient."

"All we've gotten is half a road," Kline said. "Now it seems the project is in limbo. I'm disappointed."

Kline, who has been working on the project for more than 25 years, said the county lost its only public golf course as part of the project. Forest Hills golf course north of Chesapeake was purchased by the state more than 20 years ago and turned into wetlands.

"That's a real setback," said Chesapeake Mayor Dick Gilpin. "I'm disappointed we didn't get some of it at least. Maybe we could get some of it later. It just shows it's hard to get money for projects in Southern Ohio. We're trying to build better infrastructure. It just shows we're at the low end of the priority list."

Earlier this year, officials were hoping to get money for right-of-way funding for the project that has been sought for more than 60 years. The state did build a section of the road from the East Huntington Bridge to near Fairland East Elementary School, but the five-mile section between Chesapeake and Proctorville remains unfinished.

The project has been in the engineering phase for a number of years. Construction costs have risen, and at one point reached about $180 million and now run at about $63 million, Cade said.

The committee, which reviews state funding of highway projects in the Buckeye State, followed the recommendations of Gov. John Kasich not to set aside any money for the bypass. The committee voted to put the bypass on the list of projects not considered for funding.

"TRAC wants local communities to come up with a big part of the local project costs," Cade said. The committee controls about $120 million in state funds and wants local communities to come up with about 20 percent of most projects, he said.

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