Draft of the Portsmouth Bypass Project endorsement letter
by Joedy McCreary
The Portsmouth Bypass project is long overdue: The discussion about a proposed bypass around Portsmouth first began back in the 1960’s. Several plans have been initiated including State Route 423 in the 1970’s which resulted in some right-of-way acquisition only to be brought to a screeching halt for years. The need for the Bypass identified in these prior decades has only increased due to traffic volumes continuing to grow on U.S. Routes 23 and 52 through Scioto County. About a decade ago, ODOT being cognizant of these transportation needs began spending money to help further develop the project.
ODOT is finding a solution to deliver this project sooner: ODOT’s Division of Innovative Delivery is evaluating delivery of the Portsmouth Bypass project as a possible public private partnership (P3). A P3 will allow for ODOT to build the project much sooner by taking advantage of competitive construction conditions, economies of scale, high market interest and avoid increases to construction estimates by initiating the project earlier and completing construction of the project in 4 years from bid award date. This solution transfers a higher proportion of project design, construction, operations and maintenance risk to a private partner and provides performance assurances over the long term. Also, ODOT can make payments for the project over a longer period of time – up to 40 years in some cases. ODOT committed to retaining all Scioto County maintenance employees in Lucasville relating to this procurement but if reassignment is necessary then efforts will be made to place employees in as close proximity to their current residence as possible.
Important Economic Development and Transportation Link: The I-73 connection of six states has been ongoing since the 1970’s. The intention of this inter-connection of highway improvements is to facilitate commerce, improve safety and reduce congestion. The US-23 and US-52 connection through Portsmouth is a significant restriction and the Bypass will clear another hurdle towards the development of the I-73 by removing the affect of this impediment. The development of I-73 and the Bypass will provide the vital connectivity to efficient commerce flow. The Bypass will make the area more attractive to industry along US-23 and US-52, particularly along the Ohio River in both Scioto and Lawrence Counties which has most of what it needs except adequate highway connections. The completion of the Bypass and the construction of an interchange at US-52 and Junior Furnace-Powellsville Road will greatly improve the marketability of a highly developable area where the community has been depressed by the recent closing of the Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility. These project commitments are important to the development of the impending Steel Mill and other opportunities along the Ohio River.
Improving traffic flow and saving lives in Southern Ohio: The existing corridor through downtown Portsmouth has been unable to handle the area’s increasing traffic demands for years. More vehicles are traveling through Portsmouth than ever before. This results in traffic tie-ups and more congestion. In addition, many non-commercial and commercial motorists are choosing alternate routes such as county routes to bypass the traffic issues of the City of Portsmouth. Commercial trucks are traveling through residential areas and attempting to cross over the extremely steep Rosemount Road to obtain a quicker route. Greater volume on these routes increases the potential for traffic accidents and causes many safety concerns. The construction of the interchange at US-52 and Junior Furnace-Powellsville Road will permit the closure of the left lane entrance and exit ramps on US-52 for Gallia Pike. This will greatly improve the traffic flow and safety by removing the atypical left ramps and the lane crossing movements due to the extremely close proximity of SR-253. An additional benefit is the removal of overhead crossings for US-52 and the railroad thereby removing costs associated with these two structures. In all, these projects will do tremendous amount to improve safety, reduce congestion and spur local business development.
Significant Economic Impact for Southern Ohio: According to the 2007-2011 records of the US Census Bureau, Scioto County has a population with 21.8% living below the poverty level with the entire State average at 14.8%. In 2012, there was 34.5% of the population of Scioto County on food assistance according to Jobs and Family Services. According to February unemployment rates, this region has 4 of the top 15 highest unemployment rates in the state of Ohio being Pike (13.7%), Adams (12.6), Scioto (11.9%), and Jackson (10.2%) with Pike County being #1. The construction of these projects will infuse money into the regional economies through the purchase of both goods and services of Scioto County and adjoining counties. The economics of infusing over $500 million dollars of work into Scioto County will dramatically affect the standard of living of numerous communities throughout the region. Providing workforce opportunity through construction contract incentives or requirements to employ within the regionally depressed area of the state would reinvigorate the regional workforce.
Coordination of Regional Needs and Improvements: The Portsmouth Bypass has been directly connected with the development of the Greater Portsmouth Regional Airport in Minford for years. The development of this region of southern Ohio relies upon the development of both of these modes of transportation. In order to facilitate this development, the Portsmouth Bypass has an excess of embankment which could be properly wasted at the Airport site. The proper placement of this material will provide safety and expansion of the Airport while providing a waste location for the excess material. The coordination of these two projects would be extremely important for the entire region.
We the undersigned community representatives believe that the construction of the Portsmouth Bypass, the interchange at US-52 and Junior Furnace-Powellsville Road and the extension of the Greater Portsmouth Regional Airport are necessary to address the safety, mobility and economic needs of this area of the state. Through our support we request that funds are committed for the completion of these projects and that appropriate decisions be made to facilitate the timely completion of these much needed projects while providing regional workforce opportunities. In addition, we believe that employees working maintenance on State highways need to be required to reside in Scioto County in the interest of public safety and emergency efficiency.
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