The U.S. Route 30 project in Columbiana County has remained on the back burner for more than 50 years due to the perennial problem that plagues nearly every unfinished project - lack of funding.
But now, a viable funding plan has been proposed: make the route a toll road.
At Monday's meeting of the Columbiana Port Authority, members of the U.S. 30/Lincoln Highway Committee attended to seek the board's help in lobbying state and federal officials to funding to turn Route 30 into a freeway.
Route 30 is a four-lane road from Indiana to East Canton, where it remains a two-lane road the final 36 miles in Ohio through Columbiana County, except for a portion which runs with state Route 11 from West Point through East Liverpool.
The latest attempt to complete the four lanes of the road involves dividing the project into three sections and doing them in phases as the money comes available. The sections are East Canton to Minerva, Minerva to Hanoverton and Hanoverton to state Route 11 at West Point. The committee is pursuing the Hanoverton-West Point section first, a distance of 12 miles, which would cost an estimated $118 million to design, acquire the property rights of way and construct, according to Deputy County Engineer Robert Durbin.
But now Durbin, and County Engineer Bert Dawson have proposed making the road a toll road as a solution to the funding problem.
Durbin said he and Dawson have crunched the numbers and they believe charging a toll of $1.25 for cars and $2.50 for trucks to travel the 12-mile segment would generate enough revenue to pay for the new road in 40 years based on the increased vehicle traffic they expect to result.
Committee Chairman Charles Lang told the port authority he believes turning Route 30 into a four-lane highway would further open the county to economic development and enhance port authority efforts to attract business at its river port in Wellsville and industrial park in Wellsville.
The toll road sounds like an alternative that's worth pursuing. The proposed tolls wouldn't be expensive and it might finally bring this project to fruition. Even though the toll road would take 40 years to be paid off, we've already been waiting more than 50 years for this road. If we don't go after this now, we might still be talking about completing Route 30 in 40 or 50 years from now.