Route 7 projects eyed for summer completions

DISTRICT 11 DIRECTOR — Roxanne Kane, deputy director of District 11 of the Ohio Department of Transportation, which includes Jefferson, Harrison, Belmont, Columbiana, Carroll, Tuscarawas and Holmes counties, spoke to the executive board of the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association at Scaffidi’s Restaurant and Tavern in Steubenville Tuesday. She said the University Boulevard project will be completed by the end of summer, as will a slide repair north of Brilliant on state Route 7. A repair south of Brilliant on Route 7 will take longer. -- Paul Giannamore

STEUBENVILLE — The Ohio Department of Transportation hopes to have two state Route 7 projects in Jefferson County completed by the end of the summer.

A third, south of Brilliant, will take a bit longer.

That was the word delivered from the Ohio Department of Transportation during the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association executive board meeting at Scaffidi’s Restaurant and Tavern Tuesday afternoon.

Roxanne Kane, ODOT deputy director for District 11, based in New Philadelphia, said the University Boulevard interchange project, which has traffic reduced to a single lane in each direction on Route 7 at University Boulevard, is expected to be finished by the end of the summer. The project will create a new marina road entrance and a new access ramp from Route 7 northbound toward the Veterans Memorial Bridge. Kane, who became district director in February, said the project will total more than $10 million.

She said the rockslide repair north of Brilliant is expected to be completed by the end of summer. Traffic is reduced to one lane in each direction in what normally are the northbound lanes of Route 7. That’s a $30 million project.

She said it will be at least through the end of the year before traffic in the slide area south of Brilliant can be restored to two lanes in each direction. That work originally was tagged at $16 million.

“That turned into a complicated project,” she said. ODOT had opened the road late last year and a massive rock came about halfway down the hill face above the highway.

“We felt we had to close it again for the safety of the traveling public,” she said. The road had been restricted to one lane in each direction through the slide area for years prior to the temporary opening.

She said efforts to break the rock did not go as well as hoped, so crews have been working to clear debris from the hillside.

“Once that’s cleaned up, we can figure out exactly what we want to do. There is still more work to do and it is more complicated because on the top of that big slope is a wetland draining onto our slope, causing more material to fall,” she said.

Kane said current thinking is it will take construction of a concrete weir to control the flow.

“We hope to have it opened by the end of the calendar year, but there are no guarantees there until we know exactly what we are going to do,” she said.

Kane said ODOT added 45 more slide repair projects in the seven-county region that includes Jefferson, Columbiana, Harrison, Carroll, Belmont, Tuscarawas and Holmes counties. Most of those are in Belmont and Jefferson counties and most average $200,000, she said. Overall this year, ODOT is spending $180 million on 101 projects in District 11, she said.

“We really do apologize to you for the inconvenience it causes you, but, remember, it will be worth it in the end,” she said.

She also reminded drivers to slow down in work zones.

“Exactly two months ago today, one of ODOT’s highway workers was cutting brush along an interstate ramp up in Mahoning County when he was hit by a vehicle,” she said. “John Pasco was the 164th ODOT employee to lose his life doing his job. Last year, 28 people were killed in Ohio work zones. Some of them were workers. Some of them were motorists.”

She said every driver can help keep highways safe by paying attention in work zones, limiting distractions and complying with the move-over law. Ohio requires drivers to slow down and, where possible, move to the next lane when approaching vehicles with amber flashing lights ahead. Failure to do so can result in a ticket, she noted.

“Behind those flashing lights are highway workers and members of law enforcement, utility workers, EMS workers and tow truck drivers,” she said. “These are our co-workers, our neighbors, our friends. They want to do their jobs and then they want to return home to their family each night.”

Kane said two interchange projects on Interstate 70 in Belmont County, at state Route 331 and U.S. Route 40, as well as the Mall Road connector project, are expected to be done by the end of summer.

Also addressing the OMEGA meeting was Jason Sturgeon, ODOT District 5 deputy director, who said ODOT statewide maintains 43,000 lane miles of highways, 14,000 bridges and the fourth-largest portion of the Interstate system in the nation. It’s spent $16.4 billion on more than 8,000 projects since 2011. During 2018, ODOT will invest $2.35 billion in 1,000 projects, 90 percent of which are to preserve existing roads and bridges.

His district includes Coshocton, Fairfield, Guernsey, Knox, Licking, Muskingum and Perry counties. A major project expected to take until August 2020 is the interchange of state Routes 16 and 541 in Coshocton, where loop ramps are being replaced with straighter ramps. Also on the schedule this year is resurfacing a portion of I-77 in Guernsey County.

On schedule for bidding in 2021 is a major I-70 project: A $70 million resurfacing of the road through Zanesville while maintaining two lanes of traffic in each direction and working on 17 bridges.