PDT Staff Writer
The Scioto County Commissioners are pondering an endorsement of the Public, Private, Partnership (P3) process the Ohio Department Of Transportation (ODOT) is using to accelerate construction of the Portsmouth Bypass.
“The last meeting we had with ODOT, they wanted to know what the commissioners’ position is. Craig (Opperman, Scioto County Engineer) and I were there and we talked to the folks and there were some issues brought up. Most if the issues were alleviated by the people that were talking,” said Todd Book, Interim-Scioto County Economic Development Director. “I think a lot of people are looking to the commissioners for guidance, if this is something we’re all going to be supportive of.”
Book said the idea of the bypass is good for economic development purposes.
“Right now the bypass is estimated to cost $500 million to construct. They (ODOT) have about $120 million in a savings account for construction of this road,” Book said. “They’re adding about $20 million a year. If you do the math, it would be quite a ways down the road before there is enough money to build the road.”
He said the proposal from ODOT that is being considered will be a Public-Private Partnership for the construction of the bypass.
“The idea is that they (ODOT) would hire a construction company to design, build and maintain this road for about a 35-year period,” Book said. “In return for doing this, the company would receive an annual payment for that service. The bypass is only 16 miles, the thought was that’s not going to be enough for a company to setup an operation to maintain 16 miles of roadway. So, what the state is considering is to give this private company the responsibility of maintaining not only the bypass, but also maintaining all state and U.S. Highways within the county.”
He said, in essence, what would happen is the state garage in Scioto County would go away.
Book said if this were to happen, the 28 ODOT employees at the Scioto County Garage would be offered other jobs within ODOT District 9.
He said if the P3 process works for the Portsmouth Bypass, construction could begin as soon as next year. With an estimated completion time of five years.
“They’ve talked about this thing since the 60s and we need to get it done before some of us start dying off,” said Mike Crabtree, Chairman of the Scioto County Commissioners.
Commissioner Doug Coleman wanted their endorsement to come with the assurance that those at the state garage would not lose their jobs.
For years ODOT has said the bypass would be constructed in three phases and as funding becomes available.
Phase 1 of the construction will be from Shumway Hollow Road to Lucasville Minford Road and is slated to cost an estimated $83 million with a time frame of three years to complete.
Phase 2 of the construction has a five-year time frame for completion. Construction is set to begin at Lucasville-Minford Road to U.S. 23 and is expected to cost an estimated $242 million.
Phase 3 is estimated to begin construction in 2017. Construction is slated for Shumway Hollow Road to U.S. 52. This phase is expected to cost $281 million.
The construction cost is an estimated $405 million. The grand total project cost is roughly estimated at more than $650 million.
The commissioners were informed Thursday morning if an endorsement were to come from them, it needed to at the Tuesday meeting.
“That’s $645 million worth of work going to be done in this community,” Coleman said.
Book said the commissioners could also make the request that the work be done by local workers.
“If it’s (P3) opposed and they don’t do it this way then we’re looking at 20 years down the road,” said Skip Riffe, Commissioner.
Book then responded, “if ever.”
“I think you have to think of the real possibility that it will come off the table,” Book said.
Coleman then said the county can’t let that happen. Crabtree said the commissioners owe it to the community to do whatever is best.
“We don’t want to move forward with a project if local officials are not on board. The Portsmouth Bypass is a big deal, it’s a huge project with a very high dollar amount. We are excited about this project,” said Steve Faulkner, ODOT Press Secretary. “The Public, Private, Partnerships are new to Ohio when it comes to transportation construction. If we consider the status quo and just do things the way they’ve always been done, the Portsmouth Bypass would likely never get done.”
He said if the P3 process is successful, the bypass can be completed at a much faster rate.
“If we consider innovation and with innovation comes change and with change comes apprehension sometimes. We want to make sure some local officials are on board and are just as excited about this project as we (ODOT) are,” Faulkner said.
For more information about the bypass, visit www.portsmouthbypass.com or call 888-819-8501, ext. 774-8834.
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or email@example.com. For breaking news, follow Wayne on Twitter @WayneallenPDT.