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Ohio DOT to seek funding for Chesapeake bypass

May. 10, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Ohio Department of Transportation will seek funding for Phase 2 of the Chesapeake Bypass, also called the Tri-State Outer Belt, at a meeting of the Transportation Review Advisory Committee next week.

Members of the Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce attending the 27th annual Legislative Day at the state capitol were told about the proposal to seek funding for the long-sought road between Chesapeake and Proctorville. The proposed two-lane road would cost an estimated $17 million for right-of-way acquisition and $62 million in construction costs.

If the agency that reviews Ohio road projects approves it Tuesday, right-of-way acquisition could start this year. Design work is nearly complete, said Tom Barnitz, planning and engineering administrator for the department's District 9 office.

Providing funding is secured, construction might be able to start in 2016. It would take about two construction seasons to build the limited access two-lane road that would have truck lanes on two hills, Barnitz said.

"I think it has a lot better chance of getting funded this year," said Lawrence County Engineer Doug Cade.

The construction estimate in today's dollars would be $44 million, Barnitz said. That's about half of some earlier estimates for the unfinished section of road that would replace overcrowded, two-lane Rockwood Avenue through Chesapeake. The department increased the estimate to $62 million factoring in inflation and contingencies.

Phases 1A and 1B of the bypass project were opened about seven years ago between the East Huntington Bridge and Fairland East Elementary School.

The chamber started making the annual trip to Columbus to meet with state legislators and administrators 27 years ago. The primary goal was to push for construction of the Chesapeake Bypass, a road promised to local residents for years by a number of politicians for more than 50 years.

Cade and Ralph Kline, co-chairmen of the chamber's transportation committee, also asked highway officials to work with local officials on safety issued along U.S. 52 and Ohio 7.

Four of the five intersections along U.S. 52 with the highest accident rates are in the Burlington area where Sam's and Wal-Mart and the Tri-State Crossings shopping center are located. The businesses there provide about 30 percent of the county's tax revenues, Cade said.

"We're looking at ways to reduce the number of accidents we have," Cade said. His office gets weekly traffic accidents and found that most of them are rear-end collisions by motorists not stopping in time at traffic signals, he said.

"Speed is not the issue," Cade said. "We want to work together with the department and identify solutions."

Chamber members also were told Thursday that the $81.3 million Ironton-Russell Bridge is 25 percent complete, Barnitz said. The bridge currently is scheduled to be open by the fall of 2015. There were some construction delays over the winter, he said.

Kline said the chamber also supports the proposed $500 million Portsmouth Bypass project that currently is on hold with state officials seek a public-private partnership to finance it.

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