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Dawson seeks support for U.S. Route 30 studies

LISBON — For generations, the 220 miles of four-lane highway of U.S. Route 30 have run from the State of Indiana to Canton, but then stopped abruptly, only 30 miles before reaching state Route 11.

County Engineer Bert Dawson remains interested in resolving that need for expansion across Columbiana County and asked the Transportation Improvement District board he is a part of to support the efforts to apply for federal grant money to update the environmental studies for the project. According to Dawson, it has been at least a decade since anyone did that study, which is the first step toward getting the project off the ground.

While the four-lane U.S. 30 currently stops at Trump Avenue on the east side of Canton, the Regional Transportation Improvement Project (RTIP) is even further ahead with the plans to extend the four-lane another three miles past East Canton to state Route 44. The environmental study is already completed for that portion of the project. The RTIP includes Dawson as one of the representatives for Columbiana County, along with members from Carroll and Stark counties.

Dawson would like to see that project come the rest of the way to meet up with the four-lanes where U.S. 30 merges with state Route 11.

While those in Stark County have been speaking to Senator Sherrod Brown about the project, Dawson said others have presented the project to U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, whose new district now extends into Stark County.

The federal grant application for the Rural Surface Transportation Grant has a deadline of May 23 and Jackie Shreeve, the office manager for the engineer’s office, has been working with Dawson to get all the required application paperwork completed in time. He is asking for support of the RTIP, the county commissioners and the Port Authority for the project. He also hopes to see support from local township trustees.

Dawson would dedicate some funds from the engineer’s office and hopes to see some financial support from the county commissioners promised toward the project. The more local financial support and other support a project has, the more likely competitive grants are awarded.

Besides also asking for support of the TID board, Dawson said he would like the next application for $250,000 in funding from the Ohio Department of Transportation’s TID funds to request money toward this project as well.

For fiscal year 2023, the county TID board had requested the funding for a Market Street Bridge replacement for the village of Lisbon.

Tad Herold, county economic development director and a member of the TID board, asked if Dawson for more information about the project and if Dawson believes the environmental study for the expansion of U.S. Route 30 is the “top priority” for the annual application for ODOT TID funding.

“I don’t know of any projects that I know of that are more relevant,” Dawson said.

Although the steel mills have closed, along with two coal-fired electric plants in the process of being phased out, there are now two natural gas plants in the county — one in Wellsville and one in Kensington. Additionally, the application support letter lists the $6 million Shell Cracker Plant nearing completion in nearby Monaca, Pa., and the multiple drilling projects in the county by Hillcorp, with 15 wells already underway and 92 slated for the area. Finally, it talks about investments of $33 million by the state of Ohio for the Wellsville Intermodal Facility on the Ohio River.

Dawson said he believes the need for the expansion of the roadway to a Super 2 Highway remains important for the economic development for Columbiana County. There also remains concerns for safety with the current two-lane portion of U.S. Route 30, originally built in 1912, where there have been accidents through the years.

Dawson’s office is still determining the estimate for how much the environmental study will cost. The study will look at the impact of proposed route of the project, which in some cases could have changed somewhat through the years due to new construction or development. It will include any possible concerns regarding wildlife habitats.

Herold made the motion in the end to vote for the TID board to support the project and the vote was unanimous.

In other matters before the board:

— The drainage portion of the Calcutta Smithferry Road project has been completed and Dawson reports tons of dirt is being moved to fill in a valley in order to straighten the curves from roadway. The road remains closed to through traffic and the project is scheduled for completion in the fall.

— Paul Lease agreed to reappointment to the TID board, which will now be sought from the county commissioners who make the appointment.

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