Columbiana not giving up

COLUMBIANA – The police department’s two grant applications for signal upgrades at a high-traffic intersection have been denied by the Ohio Department of Transportation, but the city isn’t giving up on the project.

The department sought the grants earlier this year after Police Chief Tim Gladis said upgrades were necessary at the state Routes 7 and 14 intersection.

The intersection is between the Valero gas station and 7&14 Truck stop, not far from the Prima Health Care facility.

Gladis has said it is one of the city’s busiest intersections with the most traffic accidents.

He believes accidents could be avoided through upgrades to the existing traffic signal and addition of turning lanes. The current signal is only a stop-and-go, with motorists left to maneuver left-hand turns on their own.

City Manager Lance Willard said during the City Council meeting Tuesday the grants were denied because they did not rank high enough.

The transportation department ranks grant applications for these types of projects based on how dangerous the particular roadway is, and funding is generally awarded if fatalities are reported.

All reported traffic accidents are submitted to ODOT and kept on record since the roads are state-owned.

Dallis Dawson and Associates in East Liverpool also conducted studies of the intersection on volunteer basis for the city in 2011. Those studies were included in the grant applications submitted by the police department.

“It was fairly recent data. We have a fairly significant accident ranking there, but in their terms, not so much,” Gladis said of ODOT.

Willard said he will continue to seek grant funding for the $3 million to $4 million project.

Councilman Dick McBane asked if new developments in that area could be candidates for tax increment financing (TIF) that would then help pay for improvements to the intersection.

Finance Director Mike Harold said the Valero property is already in a TIF, which is a public financing method that uses future gains in taxes to subsidize current improvements.

Willard said he would look into whether surrounding developments such as Prima Healthcare could do that as well.

McBane also mentioned the development occurring in that area not far from the healthcare facility, although he did not go into detail.

“All of those things are going to cause more traffic in that area and we ought to look at ways to take advantage of that to improve that intersection,” he said.

Willard said last week the property is owned by Tom Mackall and he has seen the “impressive” site plan. He directed additional questions to Mackall, who could not be reached at his business last week or this week.