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ODOT Opens U.S. 42 Bypass, Bridge in Union County

Fri October 26, 2007 - Midwest Edition
Linda J. Hutchinson

How does one Ohio village plan to celebrate the completion of its long-awaited bypass? By having its own celebration, complete with a Live Orange Barrel and an old fashioned community sing-along to, what else but, Bye Bye Barrel, sung to the tune of Bye Bye Birdie.

The Village of Plain City, in Union County, Ohio, has been waiting since 1953 for heavily-traveled U.S. 42 to bypass the village center. Population is estimated to be around 3,500.

More than 12,000 cars and trucks have been driving through the downtown every day. The new bypass will eliminate congestion, improve safety for pedestrians, and decrease travel time though and around the village.

The official ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the completion and opening of the U.S. 42 Plain City Bypass was held on Oct. 3. The $4.3 million project to relocate U.S. 42 from the center area to the northwest side of Plain City began in May 2006. Substantial completion of the bypass project occurred by Oct. 17, with the final completion date for the project on Dec 15, 2007.

The bypass relocated 1.5 mi. (2.4 km) of U.S. 42 from downtown Plain City to the village’s northwest side. The new bypass is a little more than 0.8 mi. (1.3 km) long.

During her speech at the Ohio Department Of Transportation-sponsored ribbon-cutting event, Plain City Mayor Sandra Adkins said, “People ask me how the bypass will make a difference for our Village and I readily respond that it will help us economically. We have a beautiful uptown that has lots of potential. In years gone by Plain City was a thriving metropolis. But over the years all the trucks kind of took the wind out of our sails and our uptown has taken a beating. So we anticipate a renewed focus on the uptown.”

The bypass project consisted of the construction of a new limited access capacity bypass on U.S. 42 around the center of the Village of Plain City, the addition of turn lanes at the intersection of U.S. 42 and S.R. 161, and complete reconstruction of S.R. 161 and Gray St. within the project limits.

Upgraded sidewalks and residential and commercial driveways were included in the project. The planned duration of the project was one and a half years with four phases of construction. The original contract amount was $4,178,891.

The bypass project was delayed 103 calendar days by major utility conflicts with the proposed construction. These utility conflicts included underground gas lines, underground and overhead communication lines (some fiber optic), overhead power lines, and overhead and buried cable TV lines. This delay combined with other excusable, non compensable delays could have pushed the project completion date to September 2008, according to an ODOT press release.

ODOT developed a Work Forward Agreement with prime contractor J&J Schlaegel for the purpose of reducing the economic impact to the region, reducing the time to complete, minimizing construction costs, and resolving outstanding claims issues. The contract amount was revised upward to $4.4 million so the project could be completed on time.

At the Oct. 3 opening ceremony, Adkins said, “Today is a memorable day in history for our village. The long awaited bypass is reality. Driving over it has been an exhilarating experience for me. Invariably I catch myself saying I can’t believe it really happened! Mark Twain said that ’a thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes.’ Seeing it and driving on it is a far cry from hearing it’s going to happen and even seeing it on approved plans. We have waited a long time for this and I for one am extremely happy that it is completed.”

Steve Hilbert, who serves as both village administrator and police chief, said, “This has been a long time in coming. We’ve had such a huge volume of truck traffic which bottle-necked downtown and hurt businesses.”

The hardest hit of the businesses in the center area have been those right in the construction zone, said Hilbert. “Eastbound [S.R.] 161 is still closed.”

Building owners are being encouraged to spruce up the exteriors of their buildings. The village has recently approved a Community Reinvestment Area that encompasses the uptown.

“We also look forward to new retail businesses moving into the uptown. So we see a positive cycle beginning; truck traffic greatly diminishes, improved buildings bring new businesses which brings people into the uptown to shop which ultimately boosts our economy,” Adkins said.

Location also should drive the revitalization, according to Hilbert.

“We’re 15 minutes from Columbus or Dublin. This is a real taste of rural living, yet convenient to a large city and its services. With the elimination of all the trucks, people should be able to go downtown to shop again.”

Adkins has been quick to thank all of the officials who worked with residents of the village to work through and fix issues that came up and to bring the project to a successful end. She also thanked “the residents for their patience throughout all the construction. There have been many inconveniences and frustrations for all of us. But, those businesses and the residents who live in the vicinity of the construction have had to put up with a lot; from dust, mud, water leaks, no water, noise, traffic and so on.” CEG

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