COLUMBIANA - An intersection targeted by Police Chief Tim Gladis last year for traffic signal upgrades now has congressional backing.
Gladis said last February the intersection between the Valero gas station and 7&14 truck stop, not far from the Prima Health Care facility, is the one of the busiest intersections as far as traffic crash frequencies.
It has an especially high-traffic volume during the summer months.
Following Gladis' urging the city applied for funding through the Ohio Department of Transportation for the recommended changes, which were the addition of turning lanes and upgrades to the existing traffic signal.
The current signal is only a stop-and-go, with motorists left to maneuver left-hand turns on their own.
Dallis Dawson and Associates in East Liverpool performed a study of the intersection last year, and those results were submitted with the city's grant application, but the request was denied by ODOT last July.
The transportation department told the city the grants were not awarded because they did not rank high enough. Rankings are based on how dangerous a particular roadway is, and funding is generally awarded if fatalities are reported.
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Marietta) met with ODOT officials recently in New Philadelphia alongside City Manager Lance Willard and local developer Tom Mackall to discuss possible grant funding. On Monday the congressman submitted a formal letter to ODOT Director Jerry Wray outlining the importance of the upgrades because of planned development in that area.
"As this intersection is located in an area of high development potential, this project will not only be crucial to the establishment of new businesses and jobs in the city, but would also significantly facilitate overall economic development," he wrote, adding that a safety study conducted in 2006 and updated in 2013 included potential development at the northeast and southeast corners of the intersection determined improvements to the intersection were necessary to ensure transportation safety and efficiency.
"I strongly support the application by the City of Columbiana and ask that your office give this request every consideration," he said in the letter.
The city has requested $2.07 million in the form of two small city project grants for the upgrades.
While, as Gladis has said, traffic at the intersection has been dicey for several years, the addition of an extensive planned development headed up by Mackall will add even more traffic in the coming years.
The development will consist of retail shops, restaurants and offices, a retail plaza, hotel, bank, grocery store, auto parts store and fast food restaurants.
The development, a project of Mackall's Firestone Farms LLC, is moving forward now that voters have approved beer and alcohol sales for the affected precincts and Mackall has said the entire project should be completed within 10 years, with work getting underway possibly later this year.
Willard said he anticipates hearing back from ODOT regarding the grant requests within a month or so. Should they be awarded, the city is required to cover a portion of the cost, he added.