Four to be honored by BHJ

STEUBENVILLE – Recipients of four awards for public service, efforts to build a new Ohio River bridge and upcoming road projects were among matters discussed by the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission on Wednesday.

BHJ Executive Director John Brown said at its 15th-annual awards dinner Oct. 9 at the Serbian-American Cultural Center, BHJ will recognize Richard Kins, Wellsburg fire chief for approximately 25 years and a member of the department for 40; Toronto Mayor John Geddis, who has served on Toronto Council for more than 25 years; members of the Newell Community Improvement Coalition, a volunteer group that has secured funds for improvements to Laurel Hollow Park and Clarke Field; and Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Brown said the university has made a $750 million economic impact on the community, but more importantly, its staff and students have put in 80,000 hours of volunteer work in recent years.

He said the annual awards dinner is an opportunity to thank citizens who have provided outstanding service to their communities.

This year’s event is sponsored by the town of Bethany, Main Street Bank, First National Bank in Wellsburg and WTOV-TV.

Admission is $30 each. For information or reservations, call (740) 282-3685 no later than Tuesday.

In other business, Brown said officials with the West Virginia Department are exploring funding avenues for a proposed new bridge over the Ohio River.

They include Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle bonds, which are issued through the state for projects approved by the Federal Highway Administration but not yet funded, and through partnerships with private entities.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd secured $18 million in federal funds for planning, right-of-way acquisition and initial construction of the bridge, which has an estimated cost of $120 million.

Plans call for the span to extend from state Route 2 about a mile south of Buffalo Creek into the Riddles Run interchange off state Route 7 in Brilliant.

BHJ members noted the project has been renamed, from the New Ohio River Bridge Project to the Wellsburg Bridge Project by WVDOT officials.

A study commissioned by BHJ several years ago cited the advancing ages of the Market Street Bridge and Fort Steuben Bridge, the latter then still in use; the need for another route between the states in the event of an emergency, such as rock slides, affecting Routes 2 or 7; and opportunities for economic development.

Perry Keller, WVDOT’s liaison to BHJ, reported on several upcoming projects. They included the resurfacing of 1.5-mile sections of Arroyo-Congo, Locust and Race Track roads in Hancock County, and slated for next year, the resurfacing of Freedom Way and part of Pennsylvania Avenue in Weirton.

Wellsburg Mayor Sue Simonetti asked the status of the planned installation of a new traffic signal at the intersection of Route 2 and 22nd Street and changes to signals at the highway’s intersections with 16th and 27th streets needed to coordinate their timing.

The changes are intended to ease the flow of trucks entering and leaving Eagle Manufacturing’s new warehouse facility in that area.

Keller said the $400,000 project hasn’t been awarded to a contractor yet but is slated for December.

Mike Bair, the Ohio Department of Transportation’s liaison to BHJ, said crews have removed almost 700,000 cubic yards of an estimated 2 million cubic yards needed to address a slide above state Route 7 north of Rush Run Road. Begun in 2011, the work is expected to be completed in January, but more excavation is to follow between that area and Brilliant in the future.

Ongoing ODOT projects include bridge construction at the northbound on-ramp from state Route 151 to Route 7, which is slated for completion in November; and paving of the John Scott Highway and Mall Drive.

Set to start in the near future are the expansion of the parking lot for carpool participants near the intersection of state Routes 7 and 213 and paving of Brady Avenue and University Boulevard.

BHJ Chairman Marvin Six asked Bair and John Barnhouse, head of planning for ODOT’s District 11 office, how Jefferson County compares, in funding, to other counties in the district.

Barnhouse said funding varies from year to year but Jefferson County probably ranks about second behind Belmont County.

Bair said this year a lot of funds have been needed for emergencies in Jefferson County, including $20 million for the excavation near Rush Run and and an estimated $50 to $60 million for the other excavation projects in that area.

But he said there are plans to resurface and repair bridges along Route 7 next year.

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