ODOT says it needs to know in October if the money is there.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- Ken Carano is -- in a manner of speaking -- ready to beg, borrow and steal to get the $2 million needed to build safety access lanes on the new Interstate 80 causeway over Meander Reservoir.
"We're going to go to every nook and cranny," the state representative from Austintown said. When asked if local officials should "steal" the money from another county's road project, he responded, "in politics, that's normal."
Carano, D-65th, and other local officials contend access lanes are needed so emergency crews can respond to accidents on the highway and potential chemical spills in the reservoir, which provides drinking water for some 300,00 people.
They had hoped the Ohio Department of Transportation would pay for the work. They decided Thursday to try to raise the $2 million.
What they want
Their proposal calls for the construction of emergency lanes ending in cul-de-sacs along the north and south sides of the causeway.
The plan also calls for gates in the median, giving emergency vehicles access to east and west lanes.
ODOT estimated construction of the lanes, cul-de-sacs and gates at $2 million. Cost of the causeway alone is set at $41 million. Work is set for October 2004.
John Getchey, executive director of Eastgate Council of Governments, the clearinghouse for local road projects, said ECOG will develop over the next two weeks a packet of information about the proposal that can be given to possible funding sources.
ODOT officials say they need to know by October if there is funding.
"I think this is really in the hands of people who can do creative financing," said Walter Duzzny, director of the Mahoning County Emergency Agency.
ODOT should pay
Duzzny and Austintown Fire Chief Andrew Frost have said they think ODOT should pay for the emergency lanes.
"You want to build a bridge over my drinking source, then you have the responsibility to build it safely," Duzzny said. "We're not going to let this bridge be built unless it's built right."
The causeway will have six 12-foot-wide lanes, three in each direction. Both sides will be lined by shoulders, a 22-foot-wide spill container and a 15-foot-wide embankment.
ODOT officials have said the shoulders also will provide access to emergency vehicles.
The causeway will replace the twin bridges of two lanes each.