A realignment project shutting down the portion of Ohio 794 that used to run through the Air National Guard base has been completed 30 days ahead of schedule and half a million dollars under budget.
The project, which broke ground last spring, was budgeted to be about $2.8 million. However, contractor J.R. Jurgensen finished road construction Oct. 30, a month ahead of schedule. That equated to $500,000 in savings, said Johnathan Burr, Clark County engineer.
“Time is money, and if you don’t have the guys and the manpower on the site for 30 days, that equates to a lot of money,” Burr said.
The project has been in the works since 2005 after federal guidelines were changed satisfy post-9/11 military security standards. A section of Ohio 794 was only a few feet from the base and the Yoxford Inn, which is used by the air guard for meetings and social gatherings. Federal law mandates a road should be at least 82 feet from any inhabited building and at least 148 feet from primary gathering facilities.
To satisfy the requirements, a new stretch of West Blee Road, also called County Road 794, was built west of Peacock Road to connect with an existing section of Ohio 794 east of the base. It was done through a partnership between the base, city of Springfield, Clark County Engineer’s Office and the Ohio Department of Transportation.
The base officially took possession of the old section Nov. 19 and crews have begun construction on a new entrance and guard station there. Once that’s built, the old section will close, becoming enveloped in base property behind their gates, said Lt. Col. Matthew Craig, a civil engineer with the 178th Fighter Wing.
The new road does take motorists a few minutes out of their way, but Craig said he believes the safety benefits outweigh any inconvenience.
“This does overall contribute to the safety and the security of our military personnel here,” he said.
Meeting the federal guidelines also offers protection to the base and its 800 jobs should any base-realignment decisions be made in the near-future, Burr said.
“If this doesn’t meant the force protection regulations of the base, if they go through another round of BRAC, and the base isn’t meeting their force-protection, that would jeopardize the future of this base,” he said. “We do not want that for this community. We want to protect these jobs.”
About $2.9 million in federal and $726,000 in state funding was allocated for the work. Additional grading a seeding not completed due to early snowfalls will be done in the Spring. Cost-savings on the project will go back to ODOT District 7 for other jobs, Burr said.