Route 30 group awaits funding approval

LISBON – The new county agency created to help seek funding for the U.S. Route 30 project should know by next week whether its first grant application has been approved.

Attorney Richard Schuermann Jr. reported at this week’s meeting of the Columbiana County Transportation Improvement District (TID) board that the Ohio Department of Transportation may announce by June 30 which grant applications will be funded. ODOT has set aside $3.5 million for TIDs, with the county applying for the $250,000 maximum.

If the grant is awarded, the county TID board will either use the money as matching funds to seek other state or federal transportation funding, or put it toward the $500,000 in ODOT funds already awarded the county to resume preliminary design work on the Route 30 project.

“I think we’re in the game,” said county Engineer Bert Dawson, who is one of the five board members, with the others being county Commissioner Jim Hoppel, county Port Authority fiscal officer Penny Traina, county Development Director Tad Herold and John Ross of Homeworth, who serves on the Route 30 Energy Corridor Committee pushing for the project.

The board’s goal is to convert Route 30 into a freeway from where it ends in East Canton to state Route 11 near West Point in Columbiana County. They believe this would open up the corridor to economic development, especially given the oil and gas drilling going on in the region.

Ross is an executive with the Timken Co., and he said his company hauls 60,000 truck loads of steel per year from their Canton plant but avoids Route 30 and instead goes north to the turnpike or south on Interstate 70 if they want to head east. He said turning Route 30 into a freeway through the county would solve that problem by linking them with the Pittsburgh area and beyond, although Route 30 is still two lanes for about 15 miles from Chester, W.Va., to the Pittsburgh Airport.

He suggested holding a summit in support of the project and soliciting donations from businesses that would benefit to help in raising $4.5 million needed to qualify for $40 million in federal funding to pay for the preliminary engineering work.

The project comes with an estimated $700 million price tag, but board members are exploring doing it in phases as funding comes available. Prior design work calls for north and south alternate routes, both of which are between Lisbon and Gavers, but the engineering firm being retained for the project is focusing now on designing bypasses around Hanoverton and Lisbon.

The board’s next meeting is 8 a.m. Aug. 12, but some of the members intend to attend a July 8 meeting of the Route 30 Steering Committee in Minerva. This is the group with representatives from Columbiana, Carrroll and Stark counties who are also working to revive the project.