Amsterdam road getting upgrade

BAD CURVES — A dangerous S-turn in Amsterdam will be fixed with funding from several sources, including the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission, Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Public Works Commission. An increase in truck traffic through the village made it dangerous for oncoming traffic. -- Contributed

AMSTERDAM — The village will see a dangerous S turn disappear on state Route 43 thanks to efforts by the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission.

An increase in truck traffic through the years led village officials to seek help in removing the dangerous section of road. Village Mayor Gary Pepperling said the S-turn has been a part of the village’s traffic pattern for decades.

“It’s worse now because trucks are bigger and truck traffic has increased, so the danger has increased,” Pepperling said.

He noted village officials thought they were stuck with the situation until Mike Paprocki, BHJ executive director, became interested.

“Nothing ever came to fruition until I talked to Mike,” Pepperling said. “Mike realized the safety issues of the turn. He took a liking to Amsterdam and helped move this project along. He took the time to take care of this little village.”

For BHJ, the project started with traffic counts and site visits by Paprocki and BHJ Transportation Study Director David Snelting.

“Once we visited the project area, we knew we had to do something,” Paprocki said.

He said the project was a good fit for the federal highway money BHJ receives as the as the region’s metropolitan planning organization.

“This project hits several goals adopted by our policy board,” Paprocki said. “It supports our economic vitality with the movement of goods, and straightening the S-turn improves safety on a major traffic corridor that connects our communities to the Canton-Akron area.”

Snelting said that an S-turn can result from survey offsets. In those cases, one square piece of property stacks against another in a way that doesn’t line up straight, so the resulting road weaves along property lines.

“The turns in Amsterdam are so tight that two trucks headed in opposite directions cannot physically pass,” Snelting said. “Truckers are aware of the problem. When we were doing site visits, we actually saw trucks come to a stop ahead of the curve and communicate by radio to pass one at a time.”

State Route 43, which runs from Steubenville to Cleveland, is a route used by oil and gas water trucks and Wal-Mart trucks headed to the distribution center in Wintersville. When the road was scheduled for resurfacing, BHJ was contacted by the Ohio Division of Transportation to look into the traffic safety issues.

BHJ found that slightly more than 2,200 vehicles travel on the northbound and southbound lanes through Amsterdam daily. Trucks made up 19 percent of the traffic headed north and 17.5 percent of southbound traffic.

“That’s extremely high,” Snelting explained. “A normal percentage on a state road would be around 5 percent.”

Because of the issues found by the BHJ study, the organization’s transportation study policy committee voted to spend $460,000 of its federal dollars to remove the dangerous turn. ODOT used its funding for the design, right-of-way purchase and construction inspection, totaling more than $360,000.

The final piece of the financial puzzle, a 20 percent match, fell on the village itself, Paprocki said. In April, Pepperling said he learned that Amsterdam had been awarded a $110,000 grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission to complete the funding needed for the project.

Pepperling said Jeanette Wierzbicki of the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association was instrumental in preparing the application for the grant.

Right-of-way issues are expected to be wrapped up by end of October, with the project going out to bid in early 2019.

Pepperling said he and Amsterdam residents are appreciative of the work done by BHJ and OMEGA and are looking forward to this improvement, which he believes will change the town.

“Safety-wise, it’s going to be tremendous,” he added. “The turn is blind and it has been my worst fear in my 13 years as mayor that someone was going to get killed.”