ODOT was recognized at the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO) annual meeting for the work done on the U.S. Route 33 Nelsonville Bypass project.
The Nelsonville Bypass was one of three projects to receive America’s Best Use of Innovation Award. The program is sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the American Automobile Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“I’m proud that this important project has been recognized by our peers,” said ODOT Director Jerry Wray. “The Nelsonville Bypass will help bring new jobs and additional tourism to southeast Ohio.”
The three-phase, 8.5-mi. (13.6 km), $160 million Nelsonville Bypass project is the largest highway construction project in southeast Ohio’s history. The original U.S. Route 33 through Nelsonville was heavily congested and had a history of crashes and injuries.
The bypass consists of two interchanges into historic Nelsonville by way of Athens and Hocking counties, and includes several overpasses and local road improvements. It is expected the new bypass will open up commerce and economic development opportunities to the region. Motorists can now travel more safely and efficiently to southeast Ohio.
The project has cut nearly 50 mi. off the trip from Columbus to Charleston, W.Va.
“Winning the award helps put southeastern Ohio and the entire Appalachian region in the national spotlight — a wonderful thing for the area,” said District 10 Deputy Director Steve Williams. “This award is dedicated not only to southeast Ohioans, but to the ODOT employees who spent countless hours on planning, designing and building the Nelsonville Bypass.”
One of the reasons the projectwas recognized by MAASTO was because nearly 5 mi. (8 km) of the bypass bisects Wayne National Forest. Constructing a new highway through a national forest required collaboration and oversight by numerous agencies, including ODOT, the National Forest Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, wildlife specialists and others.
The project’s unique alignment prompted ODOT to implement several wildlife and environmental mitigation techniques. The department invested more than $10 million protecting natural habitat and endangered species of the forest, and actually increased its size due to land donated by ODOT. The department also spent nearly $30 million on mitigating century-old mines under the roadway.
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