ODOT explains Bypass to City Council

By Frank Lewis

September 11, 2013

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

The Portsmouth Bypass Project should begin by early 2015 and take approximately five years to complete at a cost of around $400 million.

Representatives from the Ohio Department of Transportation gave a complete presentation on the project to Portsmouth City Council Monday night. Tom Barnitz, planning and engineering administrator for ODOT District 9, taped a map of the project to the fence in the court room and described the project. The significance of the presentation was that just weeks ago that City Council chose to “take no action,” on a resolution supporting the project because they felt slighted by ODOT and other government entities.

Barnitz said the bypass will connect U.S. 52 to U.S. 23, with three full and two partial interchanges over the course of the project. He said the full interchanges will be at U.S. 23, Lucasville-Minford Road and Shumway hollow at the Scioto County Airport. The two partial interchanges will be at Ohio 140 and U.S. 52.

Barnitz said the bypass is a “PP” project, which stands for Public/Private project, meaning it is a joint effort of the state of Ohio and a conglomerate of several private companies. Barnitz said, if the state had gone the project alone, it would have had to have been done in segments and would probably have taken around 13 years, but through the PP system, the project should be completed in about five years. He said the private company would build and maintain the bypass for the next 35 years.

“We issued a Request for Qualifications in August,” ODOT District 9 Deputy Director Vaughn Wilson said. “And we had four companies submit their qualifications, their experience, their background in delivering projects of this magnitude. Of those four, we shortened the list down to three. Those three will be asked probably by early 2014 to submit a proposal. In that, they will be telling us how they are going to do this project. How much it’s going to cost. Perhaps if there are some innovative things that they are thinking about and trying to incorporate to either save money or time or make it better.”

Barnitz said it is important for the public to know that any company selected for the project would have to meet the minimum criteria for the job.

Wilson said those submissions would be evaluated most likely in July of 2014. Then, between July and the end of 2014, the state will try to make a selection, and get all of the documents finalized.

“Hopefully then we would be working sometime perhaps in early ‘15, or maybe even as early as late 2014, if they so choose to go ahead and start at that point,” Wilson said.

President of City Council Steve Sturgill asked Barnitz if he knew of any recent studies concerning the possible economic impact the project will have on the community, specifically the city of Portsmouth. Barnitz said the only such study he was aware of was done in 2006. He said he would check to see if any recent economic impact studies had been done, and would get back with Council. Barnitz said a study has also determined that around 26,000 vehicles a day would use the bypass, but he puts that figure at closer to the 20,000 range.

Both Fifth Ward Councilman Gene Meadows and Portsmouth City Solicitor John Haas brought up the fact that the people employed for the project will most likely be from somewhere else instead of hiring local workers. When Meadows was asked if something could be done to include local employment, Barnitz told him that was not possible, though he added he thought that the companies might need some people familiar with the area to work on the project, thus hiring some local people.

Sturgill asked what kind of feedback ODOT had received from the public.

“We’ve gotten some negative feedback, but we’ve also gotten some positive feedback as well,” Barnitz said.

Since the legislation came up in the Mayor’s Conference Session, First Ward Councilman Kevin W. Johnson moved that Council adopt alternative No. 1, “approve this request.” Since the item is a resolution instead of an ordinance, there will be no need for three readings, and Council is expected to adopt the resolution at the next City Council meeting, on Sept. 23.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.