County looking at study for SR 53 fix

Transportation Coalition of North Central Ohio gave an update on the potential upgrades to SR 53 Friday.

Seneca County Commissioner Fred Zoeller said he has spoken with the Ohio Department of Transportation and the agency has set “realistic goals” for the changes to the SR 53 corridor.

ODOT and the involved counties are to take part in a study. The $100,000 study requires the involved counties to pay half and is required by the end of the year.

Zoeller said, because Seneca County is the main benefactor for the upgrades, the county should pay for $25,000 of the study.

He also suggested Ottawa and Sandusky Counties pay for $10,000, while Wyandot County pays $5,000.

Zoeller said he also intended on getting private funding for the study to help pay for Seneca County’s contribution, and so far, he has raised $7,500 from private contributors.

He said the study was the “first stage in the process” and it was necessary to get the project on ODOT’s timetable.

“Together, we are making things happen,” he said. “I cannot stress enough how important this coalition is.”

ODOT District Two Planning Engineer Mike Stormer explained that the study would investigate safety improvements along the SR 53 corridor from Upper Sandusky to SR 2 in Ottawa County.

The study would cover roughly 52 miles of SR 53.

Stormer said that they would meet with stakeholders and discuss key locations of issues and identify problem areas.

As long as the funds for the study are available, they could begin the study at the beginning of next year. It is to be completed around September.

The study will rank areas in priority and will section off the project.

“We have to, as part of the study, demonstrate the safety issues and safety concerns in the corridor,” he said. The district could get additional safety funding if the need is high enough.

He also said that secondary to the safety concerns, ODOT will also look at economic viability of the project and is part of the scoring for the track process.

He said that the time frame cannot be determined at this time and depends on the track and statewide funding and the size of the project.

Sandusky County Economic Development Corporation Director Kay Reiter also provided information on the Transportation Improvement District that Sandusky County has implemented.

The district, created to promote government and public-private cooperation and coordination on transportation projects, is outlined in the Ohio Revised Code, including the appointment of the board to govern the TID.

To apply to become a TID, the district is required to prove that there are $15 million worth of projects in the district.

Each application can receive up to $250,000 or 10 percent of funds needed for the project and there is $3.5 million available for the entire state, making it a competitive process. The applications are graded on economic development, traffic congestion, safety, and additional capacity.

There are more financial capabilities through the TID, including bonding, she said.

The TID funds can be used for preliminary engineering, detail design, right-of-way acquisition or construction. Each district could apply for money for the same project under different needs.

Stormer said that creation of a TID could help the SR 53 project get through the track process.

TCONCO is to meet again following another meeting with ODOT.