GALLIPOLIS — Area stakeholders met with Ohio Department of Transportation representatives, Gallia County officials and the Mannik and Smith Group engineering firm to discuss ongoing plans to potentially modify the Ohio 7 and US 35 interchange at the Gallia Courthouse, Thursday afternoon.
Steve Bergman, a project manager with consulting firm Mannik and Smith Group along with Beth Thornton, a lead engineer with the firm, and Alan Craig, ODOT District 10 planning and engineer, LPA and consultant contracts manager presented a traffic study before the commissioners, as they had at a previous meeting in early March of last year. This time though, instead of a variety of build plans presented before stakeholders, project organizers limited them to four, while also considering a no build option if necessary. Some options included modifications to the current Gallia-Meigs Regional Airport and one would require its entire movement to a new location.
“We believe that the alternatives we’ve put forward will eliminate some of the safety concerns throughout the entire project area,” said Thornton.
The target area of a previous study for the project extended northeast to US 35’s connection with State Route 7, US 35’s approach to the Silver Bridge, Farm Road, Burnett Road, State Route 735, Ohio 7’s entrances and exits onto US 35 and southwest onto Eastern Avenue in Gallipolis.
According to crash history of the study, between 2014 and 2016, the highest three crash areas detailed in the study were at an intersection with Eastern Avenue entering the Silver Bridge Plaza totally at 23 collisions, a no traffic light entrance into Ohio River Plaza from Eastern Avenue totaling at 20 collisions and the intersection of Burnett Road with highway State Route 735.
Some peak traffic observed by the study noted that around 15,000 travel Eastern Avenue between its intersection with the Silver Bridge Plaza and GKN Sinter Boulevard daily. Nearly 17,000 vehicles were counted daily utilizing US 35’s connection with the Silver Bridge just west of US 35’s connection with State Route 735 and Burnett Road.
“The purpose of the project is to enhance safety for motorized traffic within the Us 35 and State Route 7 interchange, enhance mobility and safety in the corridor and improve mobility, system linkage and access between US 35 and the City of Gallipolis,” said Thornton.
“Ever since the reconfiguration of the Silver Bridge Collapse, we’ve basically been doing safety studies every three to four years in this area,” said Craig at a meeting last year. “It never really has operated efficiently or correctly so we want to take a global look at the whole area and see what improvements can be made and if it’s working the way we would want it. So we engaged the firm of Mannik and Smith to see about options.”
Of the options presented, option D would move US 35 westbound lanes to parallel existing US 35 eastbound lanes. A diamond interchange would be constructed at State Route 735. Ohio 735 would be reduced to two lanes and realigned to connect with Ohio 7 near the existing US 35 eastbound entrance ramp. A two-lane connector would be constructed from Ohio 735 to Farm Road. Total construction would require two bridges.
Option J modified would move US 35 westbound lanes to parallel existing eastbound lanes. A diamond interchange would be constructed at Farm Road and a connected from Farm Road would touch Ohio 7. Roundabouts could be potentially constructed at ramp intersections and at the Farm Road connector. Reportedly, the option would require additional work for “roadway connectivity” to Ohio 7, said Thornton during the presentation. State Route 735 would again be reduced to two lanes but a T-intersection would be placed at Burnett Road. Ohio 735 would be removed from Burnett Road to the west.
Option M would see US 35 eastbound lanes moved to parallel US 35 westbound lanes. Ohio 735 would be reduced to two lanes and a diamond interchange would be constructed on it. Roundabouts could be constructed at Burnett Road and Farm Road and two bridges would need built.
Option P Mod 3 would realign US 35 to “improve geometry” said Thornton. Ohio 735 would be reduced to two lanes and a diamond interchange would be constructed on Farm Road. Roundabouts could be constructed at Burnett Road and Farm Road. The project would require the building of one new bridge.
Project planners said nothing was set in stone and that stakeholders could write down their concerns and opinions on sheets for record. Another meeting for the general public is planned for the future as engineers and consultants continue exploring construction options.
According to the meeting in terms of differences between plans, P Mod 3 would require the airport to be relocated. The other three plans would not, but would all have varying degrees of impact on the property. Option D would meet safety needs and continue use of a sharp mainline cure radius. It would reduce geometry and conflict concerns at Ohio 7 near the Silver Bridge Plaza. It would cost around $37 million to complete, reportedly. Option J Mod would continue the use of a sharp mainline curve radius, reduce geometry and conflict concerns at Ohio 7 near the Silver Bridge Plaza. It would cost around $42 million to complete. Option M would eliminate the use of sharp a sharp mainline curve radius and reduce geometry and conflict concerns at Ohio 7 and the Silver Bridge Plaza. It would cost around $39 million. Option P Mod 3 would realign 35 to improve curve geometry and reduce geometry and conflict concerns at Ohio 7 and the Silver Bridge Plaza. It would cost around $58 million to complete.
An aviation consultant, Greg Heaton, said that option M was the best from what he felt would be the Federal Aviation Administration’s perspective.
Stakeholders further discussed their concerns and perspectives with the project planners after the presentation was finished and turned their comments in on sheets.
Any potential construction to be done would reportedly take place years down the road as project planners aim to meet projected traffic growth and safety issues for the year 2040.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.