Highway relocation funds approved

Ohio 794 work linked to area jobs, security at local Guard base.

COLUMBUS — The last piece of funding to move Ohio 794 fell into place Monday, a plan that supporters said is needed for area jobs and for security at the Springfield Air National Guard Base.

At a meeting of the state controlling board, lawmakers approved a $500,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Development — the final funding of the $2.7 million project.

Moving the road is critical to keeping military missions and contractors at the base, lawmakers and other public officers have said.

After Sept. 11, 2001, military security standards increased, and Ohio 794 is too close to buildings and equipment at the base.

State and local development officials also have said the area will be home to 450 new private-sector jobs in the next three years or so.

Road relocation will take roughly one construction season, said Paul DeButy with the county engineer’s office.

Bids will go out in July or December, DeButy said, depending on whether the county decides to wait for federal funds for a $100,000 project to mitigate the new road’s environmental impact.

“For the last several years, we, as leaders of the community, have been working on the design and funding of the road,” said state Sen. Chris Widener.

Widener serves on the controlling board, which approved the development spending.

“(Department of Development) funds are allocated to stimulate or increase job retention or creation,” Widener said. Several agencies also “have been working the federal delegation” to pull down federal money.

Since the Clark County Engineer’s Office took on the project in 2008, the Air National Guard and several private companies have operated as if the road was moving. A building was even built based on where the road would move to.

Now, the road project is a surety.

“This is a minor piece, but it’s an important piece,” said Tom Franzen, the city’s economic development administrator.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is putting up funding as well, Widener said. In the county’s negotiations with ODOT for money, officials decided the county will take over maintaining the road.

“It really is a finite path between (U.S.) 68 and (Ohio) 72,” Widener said. “It’s more or less a county thoroughfare.”