Engineer pushes hard for U.S. 30 project

LISBON – Columbiana County Engineer Bert Dawson believes the Hanoverton/Kensington area would be the ideal location for an industrial park as part of efforts to turn U.S. Route 30 into a freeway.

Speaking at the recent meeting of the county transportation improvement district (TID) board, of which he is a member, Dawson said he can see the area becoming attractive for industrial development because of its proximity to the Utica East Ohio natural gas collection and processing plant located just south of Hanoverton.

Not only that, the county will soon begin work on a mini-sewage treatment plant in Kensington that will be capable of being expanded to take in nearby Hanoverton.

To that end, Dawson suggested they begin inviting county Port Authority CEO Tracy Drake to their meetings or at least keeping him in the loop on the TID board’s activities as they seek to jump-start the Route 30 project. He said Drake could assist in marketing the area for development.

TID was created earlier in the year by commissioners for the specific purpose of seeking funding for Route 30, and the group was recently awarded $250,000 in federal funding through ODOT for that purpose.

Dawson believes most of the preliminary engineering work and environmental impact studies performed about 10 years ago before the last push ground to a halt may still be valid. He suggested the $250,000 be used to determine how much of those studies need updated rather than starting over, which would save time and money.

ODOT has also set aside $500,000 for a preliminary study to determine where the worst traffic congestion exists along the county stretch of Route 30 and recommend improvements. Dawson said he would like both efforts be incorporated into a single long-term blueprint for completing Route 30 through the county.

Dawson also reported he and his staff tweaked ODOT’s suggested northern route for the realignment that would have the new Route 30 run just north of Minerva and Hanoverton/Kensington before dropping south of Lisbon to connect with state Route 11 at West Point.

He emphasized this is just their suggestion. “This is completely up to ODOT where they build it,” Dawson said.

The price tag is $800 million, which is why the group is seeking to do the project in stages, as funding can be obtained, starting at Route 11 and working west.

In other action, the board named retired local banker Charles Lang as a non-voting member. Lang has long been a driving force for turning Route 30 into a freeway and in recent years served as chairman of a steering committee devoted to keeping interest in the project alive.

“I think this is a very wise and valuable addition to our board,” said TID Chairman John Ross.

Jackie Stewart, the local representative for U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, attended the meeting and suggested she arrange a private meeting with officials from federal agencies to discuss availability of funding for the project.

Also attending her first meeting was Christina Wagner, regional manager for ODOT’s Office of Jobs and Commerce.

The board’s next meeting is 8 a.m. Sept. 9.