ODOT says it needs to know in October if the money is there.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- Township Fire Chief Andrew Frost says he hopes to meet with the governor in the next few weeks to discuss the proposed Interstate 80 causeway over the Meander Reservoir.
At a meeting Thursday, William Murphy, Ohio Department of Transportation planning administrator, said he didn't think the department would pay for construction of the lanes.
Why lanes are needed
Local officials contend that 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 300,000 people.
"I question the leadership of ODOT," Frost said. "I don't think they could possibly ignore this."
ODOT officials estimate that the lanes could tack $2 million onto the cost of the $41 million project.
Frost said he'd go to Columbus "any time, day or night," to meet with the governor. He added that the access lanes were in original causeway plans developed 10 years ago.
Local officials agreed Thursday to try to raise money for the emergency lanes.
State Rep. Ken Carano of Austintown, D-65th, said he is -- in a manner of speaking -- ready to beg, borrow and steal to get the $2 million needed to build the access lanes.
"We're going to go to every nook and cranny," he said. When asked if local officials should "steal" the money from another county's road project, he responded, "In politics, that's normal."
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.
Work for the project 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 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.