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Clark County, ODOT seek federal money to move up I-70 widening

Clark County officials are supporting an Ohio Department of Transportation grant application for $31 million in federal transportation money to move up the Interstate 70 widening project between U.S. 68 and Ohio 72.

The $52 million project is currently scheduled to begin construction in July of 2019, Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee Director Scott Schmid said. The TCC approved a resolution to support the application at Friday’s meeting.

The 3.46 miles of the roadway from U.S. 68 to Ohio 72 remains two lanes in both directions of I-70. The second phase of the project includes adding a lane in the east and westbound lanes from U.S. 68 to Ohio 72, redoing the existing four lanes and replacing six bridges.

RECENT COVERAGE:$3M sought for Springfield, I-70 traffic project

RELATED:I-70 finished between Enon and U.S. 68

The improvements will reduce congestion for trucks hauling freight and improve traffic safety issues, ODOT Planning and Engineering Administrator Matt Parrill said. The district also has work to do to maintain the current infrastructure, he said. Aging bridges along I-70 need repairs, Parrill said. The project will allow several bridges to be replaced, he said.

“From my perspective, its system condition at a local level, but from a regional and nationwide level, it’s creating a continuous six-lane section for the truck traffic,” Parrill said. “It’s a change for now.”

If the federal application for a U.S. Department of Transportation FASTLANE grant is approved, it’s unclear how soon construction would begin, Schmid said.

“It will move the project forward, it’s just a matter of how fast,” he said.

The $18 million Phase 1 of the project from Enon to U.S. 68 was completed in the fall of 2015. A third lane was added in each direction in the 3.8-mile stretch of I-70, which took nearly a year-and-a-half to complete.

The FASTLANE program was created as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act to improve freight shipping across the country. About $4.5 billion is being used for the program between 2016 and 2020, including $850 million during the 2017 fiscal year.

ODOT applied for a similar a grant last year, but was not selected, Parrill said. It’s submitting an updated application during this round, Parrill said.

“It’s very competitive, but it’s an opportunity to jump ahead of the existing (schedule),” Parrill said. “We’re going to take every opportunity for these programs we they come along. If we qualify, we’re going to apply.”

The $5 million design for the project has already been completed, Parrill said, meaning it can move forward as soon as funding is in hand. It was chosen by state ODOT leaders as a project worthy of FASTLANE money. If approved, ODOT will have to find need to find $20 million in funding to complete the project. They hope to get the money through the Transportation Review Advisory Council or district allocations, he said.

“They do know that if we do receive it, it’s not the full amount,” Parrill said. “They would have a financial plan to bridge the gap.”

The Springfield City Commission, Clark County Commission and the Chamber of Greater Springfield are also expected to write letters of support, Schmid said.

Springfield is the lone two-lane area where traffic bottlenecks in a 40-mile stretch between Dayton and Columbus, Clark County Commissioner John Detrick said.

“The economic impact is just phenomenal,” Detrick said.

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