(Posted June 14, 2018)
By Sandi Latimer, Staff Writer
Due to increased traffic, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is looking at upgrading the I-70/State Route 29 interchange.
At a special West Jefferson council meeting on June 11, ODOT representative Tom Slack asked the village to share the costs of the upgrade, similar to what was done 10 years ago when a roundabout was built at that interchange.
“It’s time to add a second roundabout and widen Route 29 to add a second lane over I-70,” Slack said before council approved setting aside $3.6 million for the project and selection of an engineering firm.
Through Project BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development), ODOT and the village together would cover $6 million of the project cost, and ODOT would ask for $8 million in federal funds, Slack said.
He said a total of $1.5 billion is available in federal funds for transportation improvements, and the deadline for applying for them is July 19.
The West Jefferson project is one of six across the state that would be in competition for federal funds.
The first phase of upgrades at the interchange produced the roundabout on State Route 29 north of I-70 in the westbound lanes. The second phase would create a similar roundabout in the eastbound direction, south of I-70. ODOT funds would pay to replace the deck on the existing bridge.
“Construction would not begin until 2020 or 2021,” Slack said.
John Mitchell, West Jefferson’s public service director, said the village could use tax increment financing (TIF) funds to cover part of its share of the costs. TIFs are collected from occupants of the village’s commerce park along Route 29.
A couple of times during his presentation, Slack mentioned the recent announcement that Amazon plans to open a fulfillment center in the commerce park. The facility will create hundreds of jobs by the end of 2019, creating a higher volume of traffic in the area.
After approving a resolution to enter into a project to obtain the federal grant funds, council approved legislation to hire Choice One, an engineering firm out of Sidney