MEANDER RESERVOIR Revised bridge plan worries officials

Emergency crews don't want to be hemmed in with no way out to I-80.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A revised plan that cuts about $13 million off the cost of replacing twin bridges that carry Interstate 80 over Meander Reservoir has alarmed local emergency response officials.
They're concerned because one of the changes eliminated an access-road connector that would have provided easy exit for emergency vehicles, said Walter Duzzny, executive director of the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency.
The new plan includes a road that will allow emergency vehicles to get from the highway to the water's edge for a disaster response, Duzzny said. There is a road at each end of the bridge to accommodate both eastbound and westbound vehicles.
Here's the concern: The problem is that the only way out is for the vehicles to back out onto I-80.
"If you happen to be the first vehicle in there and all the others pull in and line up behind you, you're stuck until they back up and leave," Duzzny said.
That could be a problem if another situation arises and the emergency crews have to get out fast to respond, he said.
The original plan called for the access road to loop around under each end of the bridge so vehicles could enter on one side and exit the other.
"We need a way out so we don't jam up and isolate emergency service vehicles," Duzzny said.
Removed from plan: Jennifer Richmond, spokeswoman for ODOT's District 4 office in Ravenna, said the connectors were in the original design but were removed as part of the cost-cutting plan. ODOT didn't realize it would be a problem, and thought local officials were on board with the change, she said.
"But it's not a done deal. We are revisiting that" part of the design, Richmond said. "We don't want to jeopardize any emergency-response capabilities."
She said ODOT will arrange a meeting with Duzzny and others who've voiced concerns and try to resolve the problem. She wasn't sure when or where the meeting will be.

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