Youngstown originally planned the arterial as an expressway in 1956.
By JOSH ECHT
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A proposed local highway will have to overcome public hearings, a thousand-page report and federal approval to stay alive.
The Eastgate Regional Council of Governments will conduct two public hearings next spring to gauge Youngstown and Hubbard residents' reaction to the proposed Hubbard Arterial, on the books since 1956.
"These hearings, which include court stenographers, are more formal than the public meetings we held last fall," said Ken Sympson, Eastgate's director of highway planning.
Eastgate will conduct one hearing in Mahoning County one day and another the next day in Trumbull County.
The federally funded council functions as a regional planning agency for road, public works and environmental projects in Trumbull and Mahoning counties.
"We are an association of local governments," said Eastgate Executive Director John Getchey.
Sympson said the early 2006 hearings are just one part of Eastgate's effort to nudge the proposed highway closer to federal approval.
Eastgate downgraded the six-mile highway from expressway standards to arterial standards in 1997 because of funding issues.
"It will cost $74 million in 2005 dollars if approved," Sympson said. "Had it remained at expressway standards, it would have cost more."
The four-lane divided highway would start at Albert Street on Youngstown's northeast side and wind east toward Hubbard, connecting at Interstate 80 via an interchange at Bell-Wick Road west of Hubbard.
U.S. Route 62 and state Route 7 would shift from current roads onto the arterial.
The project still has a long way to go, Sympson said.
"It is currently at the environmental impact statement stage," he said. "The EIS is the top level of planning levels," and evaluates the road's economic and environmental effects on the community.
Sympson said Eastgate will submit the environmental impact statement, which will include feedback from the public hearings, to the Federal Highway Administration around spring 2006. A decision from the FHA is expected later that fall.
"If it is approved, then we will start the design phase of the roadway," Sympson said. "Funding will determine when construction will start."
Eastgate Transportation Director Kathleen Rodi said the roadway would have a positive economic and social impact on residents.
"Northeast Youngstown residents will be able to access more parts of Mahoning County. Consequently, economic development will improve," she said.
She estimated roughly 20,000 to 25,000 vehicles would use the highway daily.
Despite the hurdles Eastgate faces, Rodi said she is pleased with the highway's current EIS status.
"Most new major construction projects struggle to get to this point," she said.