Monday, June 17, 2013

Three Years Ago Today: 161 Opened with Lingering Questions

Today marks three years to the day since the formal opening ceremony for the section of St. Rt. 161 from New Albany to Granville. 

I wrote back then about lingering questions that remained unanswered in 2010.  They remain unanswered today, but there's no less hope that they will get answered.

I asked, "Will the Cherry Valley Interchange get designed and built this decade?"

The answer is increasingly looking like "yes."  Using Congressman Pat Tiberi's long-standing earmark and ODOT's own excellent in-house engineering team at ODOT District 5, the design is nearly done.

The interchange missed many opportunities to get funded in the federal Stimulus, but it remains a top project in state rankings.  Improving state highway revenues coupled with a completed design makes its chances brighter for happening this decade.

I also asked, "Can't ODOT find a better number and name for this highway corridor than the current collection of routes known as SR161/SR37/SR16/US36/US250/US22?"

This concept has had strange stagnation in ODOT with the cost of signage remaining the reason given.  That otherwise seemingly valid reason ends up sounding strange considering the recent move to 70 MPH on certain highway sections was never apparently looked at with costs of signage as an issue. 

So, the answer is, "Yes, ODOT can."  However, the answer to the follow up question, "Will ODOT do it?" remains a likely, "Not anytime soon."

Lastly, I pondered three years ago, "Will there be a state leader emerge who sees the value of connecting the markets of Columbus and Pittsburgh in a way that a two-lane tunnel at Wheeling, West Virginia can't do and who champions finishing the unfinished business east along the highway corridor?"

Having a Governor living in Columbus with roots in Pittsburgh gives a glimmer of hope.  The studies that look at this project can't help but consider the recent economic past of Eastern Ohio as a predictor of the future and if the studies' outcomes remains the driving force it will be a very, very, very long time.  It's going to take leadership and a vision for the future of this region to push it.

The oil and gas boom happening along this Corridor, though, could hold the key to revival of this concept.  Here's hoping the issue remains alive just enough that should the opportunity present itself that a leader can't take the platform to push this project forward.

It's only been three years after all.

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