Saturday, December 27, 2008

US20 in Ohio: Possible Widening In The Toledo Area

After writing a few weeks ago about a widening project for US Route 20 in the eastern end of Ohio in Ashtabula County , information about a prospective widening project on the western end of the state in the Toledo area was released. It sounds like the project may not be welcome by everyone. Here is the story from The Press Publications:

Top priority at TMACOG “To-do” list: Widen Route 20 through Stony Ridge
By J. Patrick Eaken Dec 18, 2008

It’s on the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Government (TMACOG)’s “to do” list — widen U.S. Route 20 through Stony Ridge to five lanes.

And, it’s a high priority — No. 5 on a list of 60 items from TMACOG’s 2007-2035 Transportation Plan Draft Project List compiled in February 2007.

“We prepare a long range that we update every four years, and it’s one of the highest priority projects that we have within our long range plan,” said Warren Henry, TMACOG vice president of transportation.

And, it’s listed in the Toledo/Northwest Ohio Transportation Coalition’s legislative agenda for 2008-2009 — widening U.S. 20 from Perrysburg to State Route 420.

The transportation coalition plans to actively pursue this improvement to the Route 20 corridor for the purpose of safety and efficiency, states the TMACOG project list report. Estimated cost would be $35 million.

Henry says studies have indicated that traffic flow is too heavy for two lanes, plus the highway serves three nearby interstates. He says it’s in ODOT’s court now.

“We’re not an implementing agency. ODOT would be the group there that would take ownership of the project, and they would schedule it and actually proceed with it,” Henry said.

“Really, it’s in ODOT’s hands now, because it’s part of the long range plan for ODOT to implement. ODOT has to have the money, and then set it up. They have a track program that they prioritize projects, so it has not risen to the point where funds are available for them to actually start the design processing.”

Henry said once ODOT takes up the project, there would be more studies, public meetings, and recommendations during the design stage.

“I have to say, candidly, its years and years away,” Henry said. “It’s on our ‘to-do’ list, and as long as it’s on our ‘to-do’ list, then they can come up with that federal money. If it’s not even on that ‘to-do’ list, then it’s not eligible for federal money in the future. So, it’s made its first initial step but it’s got a long ways to go.”

Tom Blaha, Director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, believes that Route 20 may continue to see increases in traffic flow.

“I think part of what has exacerbated that has been since the truck tolls went up on the turnpike, a lot of the trucks get off the turnpike and use 20,” Blaha said.

Save The Old Mud Pike

Stony Ridge business owner Maxine Haas would not mind seeing 20 widened, as long as it doesn’t threaten Stony Ridge homes and businesses.

She would rather see 20 widened than rerouted north or south of Stony Ridge, because rerouting might take away business from her family’s two businesses, Pee Wee’s Dari Snak and Haas Service Station.

“They’ve discussed this for many years,” Haas said. “That’s always been rumored, but what are they going to do? We don’t know.”

One suggestion she has would be to widen to three lanes through Stony Ridge, with a turn lane in the middle.

That, she believes, would not threaten homes and businesses near the highway, and it would slow traffic down as it moves through town. That would also help improve safety at a curve on a hill near the intersection of State Route 163 and 20, which has been the site of fatal accidents.

“It (three lanes) wouldn’t take all the houses away. You have to be aware of that (curve),” Haas said. “I don’t want five lanes, because that’s what they talked about 20 years ago.”

Twenty years ago, Kathi Henry and Sally Welch were co-chairmen of S.T.O.M.P., or “Save The Old Mud Pike” Citizens Against Route 20 Expansion. Some of the questions S.T.O.M.P. raised were:

• What about the adverse affects to over 200 residences and 30 small businesses with regards to the safety of their properties and families?

• There is a probability that it would close a community library with over 1,300 local patrons. It could destroy several historic properties, including the “Empire House,” the remaining inn from the 32 that lined the Maumee and Western Reserve Road.

At that time, project costs were estimated at $25 million. The Stony Ridge residents were successful in convincing state government officials to abandon the project.

The US Route 20 Blog homepage can be found here.

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