Roads to progress

CALCUTTA – Ten years after it was first opened, McGuffey Drive in Calcutta has changed St. Clair Township’s traffic flow for the better, according to trustees.

Columbia Drive and the approximately 170 acres of land between McGuffey and state Route 170 also are seen by the trustees as holding great potential for economic development in the county’s largest township.

Route 170, which turns into five lanes as it runs through Calcutta, is the busiest roadway in Columbiana County with St. Clair Avenue being the second busiest, according to trustee Robert Swickard. He noted that a traffic study done approximately three years ago showed 27,000 cars a day travel through this busy corridor. The same study, Swickard noted, showed McGuffey Drive accommodates some 6,000 cars a day that would also likely be using 170 if not for the alternate route it provides.

“We were hoping to alleviate some of the passing-through traffic because if you eliminate some of that pass-through traffic that means some of the people who do have business there can get in and out easier, so it encourages people,” said Swickard, noting that 10 percent of traffic on 170 was just passing through the area.

Trustees explained that traffic in St. Clair Township has “boomed” in recent years, and for that reason McGuffey Drive is an asset that will only become increasingly useful.

Economic development along McGuffey, however, has been slower than trustees had expected due to, they say, the economic downturn in 2008. But the prospects for further development, as well as on the potentially adjoining Columbia Drive, look better than ever.

“When 2008 came and the economy suffered the way it did, all these companies put a hold on development, but at the same time when it starts to recover, and it appears it will, who knows what the gas and oil will do for us here,” said trustee James Sabatini II.

Crestview AutoBody has been the only business to set up shop along McGuffey thus far and “appears to be doing well,” according to board chairmen James Hall.

There has been some talk throughout the years of several large businesses locating on property along McGuffey, but trustees are cautiously optimistic about the county’s ever-expanding oil and gas industry bringing businesses to the area.

“It’s not going to happen over night, but I think in three-to-five years that something is going to happen to spur this economy on with gas and oil,” said Hall.

Whatever the future holds for McGuffey Drive and the surrounding property, trustees say they feel good knowing the infrastructure already is in place to accommodate whatever business might be interested in locating there – utilities already are available along the corridor.

The township leaders remain particularly optimistic when it comes to the future of Columbia Drive, which currently only uses about 600 feet of roadway where it intersects 170 near the entrance to Challenger Drive.

Trustees reported at the Feb. 12 meeting that they met with ODOT officials in Columbus during an annual conference for township officials in January. The meeting yielded some encouraging news regarding funding for further development of Columbia Drive.

“We’re pretty confident it’s going to be a project that’s going to take off this coming year,” said Hall. “They pretty much assured us that there is funding available.”

Funding for the completion of the project would come from a combination of loans and grants from different government sources such as OMEGA, ARC, the Ohio Department of Development (ODOD) and ODOT.

Some steps remain for the township to take before trustees can apply for funding to finish the project. Some of that process includes environmental studies required by the EPA, and an updated project cost. Swickard said wetland mitigation studies have already been completed, as well as the necessary engineering for the roadway.

Once completed, Columbia Drive would connect 170 to McGuffey Drive.

The original access road portion of Columbia Drive was completed in 2010, and completely funded by a $750,000 ODOD grant.

“The infrastructure is there and the signalization is there,” said Sabatini. “This is something that a developer would of had to invest in for themselves. We as a township got a grant to do that so it didn’t cost taxpayers anything.”