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Group Seeks Expansion of Four-Lane Highways in East Ohio

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Steubenville, August 1, 2018 | comments
With the slogan “the time is now,” the Columbus to Pittsburgh Corridor Association kicked off a new drive Tuesday morning at Bella Hall in Steubenville to push for completion of 47 miles of four-lane highway corridor to link across seven eastern Ohio counties.
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Wheeling Intelligencer
By Paul Giannamore
Published August 1, 2018

With the slogan “the time is now,” the Columbus to Pittsburgh Corridor Association kicked off a new drive Tuesday morning at Bella Hall in Steubenville to push for completion of 47 miles of four-lane highway corridor to link across seven eastern Ohio counties.

 

Efforts during the last decade, before the region’s shale play came into full bloom, ended when an Ohio Department of Transportation declared the project unfeasible in 2011. At the time, it said it would create only 55 jobs and not provide a true improvement in safety.

The corridor group cites current data showing 8,700 jobs have been produced along the route since then, and there have been 70 crashes along a 10-mile stretch of U.S. 250 from 2015 to 2017.

Ed Looman, Eastern Ohio project manager for the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth, is president of the resurrected association. Looman had served as president of the association during the previous effort.

“We really are missing out on job creating opportunities,” Looman said.

He said companies seeking to locate in the counties along the corridor want land close to a four-lane highway network. As a result, portions of the area suffer, particularly in Harrison County, because of the lack of highways.

Harrison County contains the largest stretch that needs completion: 20.6 miles. Second is Tuscarawas County, at 15.3 miles, followed by Coshocton, at 7.6 miles, and Muskingum, at 3.6 miles.

The remaining stretches across Licking County to Interstate 270 at New Albany, northwest of Columbus, are completed as four-lane highways. The corridor includes pieces of Ohio 161 to Ohio 16, U.S. 36 and U.S. 250 to the four-lane U.S. 22 at Cadiz.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, state Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, and state Sen. Frank Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction, all expressed support for the committee.

“We need to change the theme,” said Johnson. “We say the time is now, but we should say the time was then. It is long overdue to have this 47-mile corridor completed.”

He said while the committee needs ODOT’s help, “Any study that says it will only create 55 jobs by extending the four lane — I don’t know what statistics they are looking at or what formulas they are using, but I think that is a very flawed study. I think if you build it they will come, and they have come in spite of the fact that we haven’t built it.”

Homrighausen and Jeanette Wierzbicki, executive director of the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association, said efforts already are under way to find money to pay for raising the height of a railroad bridge on U.S. 250 in Harrison County to allow large trucks passage. That would eliminate a 70-mile detour for big loads in the county. Both said the effort isn’t just about preserving the shale jobs, but allowing access to the region to diversify beyond the shale era.

Ohio Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, said he drives I-70 to Columbus every week and the amount of traffic continues to grow.

“It’s not just for the shale area,” he said. “It’s the increase in truck traffic to deliver goods to America with the just-in-time systems.”

Cera said it will be a lengthy process to get the project listed on ODOT’s plans.

Giovanna Loccisano, a representative for Hoagland, said the senator “fully supports this initiative.”

Evan Scurti, executive director of the Jefferson County Port Authority, said the area’s continued growth can’t be served just by river and rail networks.

Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Gentile said ODOT officials over the years “have bent over backwards” telling him the highway isn’t necessary.

“If ODOT can still turn a blind eye to what has happened on that road, that is what our challenge is going to be, first and foremost convincing ODOT,” Gentile said.

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