SR?53 refinements discussed

Talks about improving area infrastructure continued Friday at a four-county coalition meeting at North Central Ohio Educational Service Center.

Representatives from the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Ohio Turnpike Commission and the state spoke at the second Transportation Coalition of North Central Ohio, which consists of Seneca, Sandusky, Ottawa and Wyandot counties.

During the meeting, Seneca Industrial and Economical Development Corp. President and CEO Rich Focht reiterated points from the coalition’s first meeting last month.

“The primary issue, it’s driving our initial discussions is the fact that (SR) 53 the one thing that kind of holds us all together, runs through all four of our counties,” Focht said.

“We’re looking at some thread here, if you will, that we can coalesce around to look how we move ahead and form a coalition. And also look at how we can make our voices stronger, and how we can make our voices heard down in Columbus,” he said.

Focht said all four counties have their own “healthy self-interest” and each county has its important projects.

“I think another reason for this coalition is to support one another in those efforts,” he said.

State Rep. Rex Damschroder, R-Fremont, spoke in support of the coalition and its efforts to be proactive in making improvements on SR 53.

“This is a big issue,” Damschroder said. “It’s a big issue to Seneca County, Wyandot County and Ottawa County.”

He said improving SR 53 would benefitsafety, economic development and tourism.

Damschroder said many people travel from the Columbus area to Lake Erie, and SR 53 is a direct route to it.

“I’m convinced it’s a good project, no doubt about it, ” he said. “It’s what we all need; it’s what you’re working for I’ll do what I can.”

Mike Stormer, ODOT District 2 planning engineer, spoke about short-term and long-term plans dealing with SR 53.

Stormer said there have been 120 crashes between 2006-10 on the stretch of SR 53 from the county line in McCutchenville to US 224. There were an additional 57 crashes involving deer on that stretch during that time.

He said most common contributing factors for the were drivers following cars too closely and drivers passing other drivers.

ODOT has made low-cost, short-term improvements to the road in 2012 including erecting signage, adding pavement marking improvements. He said ditch and slope improvements started last year and are expected to be completed this year, Stormer said.

Some long-term plans to improve safety include cutting down hills to remove sight distance obstructions, he said. There are four hills on SR 53 that ODOT would like to see cut down.

He said ODOT District 2 applied to fix one of the hills from a state fund, but the application was not accepted. He said he plans to reapply in the fall.

OTC Executive Director Rick Hodges spoke about Gov. Kasich’s transportation, infrastructure and jobs plan involving the turnpike.

Hodges said the Kasich’s plan is to “leverage the value of the turnpike to benefit primiarly, almost exclusively, northern Ohio to create jobs during a time we desperately need them.”

He said the plan is expected also to help northern Ohio communities improve infrastructure and economic development.

“Projects that have a nexus to the turnpike will be funded,” he said. “Projects that do not have a nexus, or have a lower nexus, will not.”

Hodges said the legislature has defined nexus as roads within 75 miles north of the turnpike, but he said “it will be much, much closer than that.”

He said a local project will have to demonstrate there is a flow of traffic onto the turnpike.