Columbiana County Engineer Bert Dawson has come up with a new approach for jump-starting the U.S. Route 30 project: Make it a county road, at least for now.
Dawson floated the idea at this week’s meeting of the county Transportation Improvement District board, created in 2014 as a way to pursue funding for local efforts to turn Route 30 into a freeway from East Canton to state Route 11 near West Point.
The Ohio Department of Transportation, which has responsibility for Route 30, is unwilling to make any long-term commitment unless local communities come up with a way to raise a significant portion of the estimated $900 million price tag.
Dawson is proposing a segment of the project — from West Point to state Route 9 in Hanoverton — be undertaken as a county road project. He said delinking Route 30 from ODOT would remove bureaucratic hurdles and possibly speed the process, and only doing a segment would lower the cost and increase the chances of obtaining funding.
One possible source of funding would be the federal FASTLANE program, which provides grants for critical highway projects that serve as major thoroughfares for freight. TID has been promoting Route 30 as a freeway project that is needed to serve the growing oil and gas industry in the region.
“This is a funding source geared exactly to what we want to do,” he said of FASTLANE. “This way would be moving forward.”
TID member and county Port Authority CEO Penny Traina agreed, saying, “At least this would give us some traction.”
An environmental impact study of the entire Route 30 realignment was performed in the 1990s, and Dawson said the West Point-to-Route 9 portion of that impact study would need to be updated. He proposed hiring MS Consultants to seek a grant from ODOT to pay for the update. MS would charge $35,000 to prepare the grant application, and Dawson hopes Carroll and Stark county commissioners might help pay the costs since they are members — along with Columbiana County commissioners — in RTIP, a multi-county organization also seeking funding for the Route 30 project.
When asked if the engineer’s office could afford to take on maintenance of a 13-mile freeway, Dawson said once the segment is completed it would be turned over to ODOT.
“It would be the first leg of U.S. 30. We’d develop it and turn it over to ODOT,” he said.
Dawson has spoken with ODOT engineers several times about his idea, “and they’re very supportive, actually,” he said.
In other action, Dawson reported ODOT has been awarded a $250,000 federal planning grant to make improvements to the intersection of state Route 45 and South Lincoln Avenue in Perry Township, known as the Salem bypass. The township portion of South Lincoln Avenue is a county road, and ODOT asked if TID would participate in the project by providing the $25,000 match needed to obtain the grant. TID agreed, with county commissioners to provide the $25,000 in matching funds.