NELSONVILLE — After decades of planning and more than four years of construction, the $160 million, 8.5-mile U.S. 33 Nelsonville Bypass opened Tuesday providing safer, faster and easier access to southeast Ohio. Joined by Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Director Jerry Wray, community leaders, businesses and state and local officials attended the ceremonial ribbon cutting signifying the opening of the final upgrade to U.S. 33 and southeast Ohio's major transportation corridor.
“Today, we keep yet another promise to the people of southeastern Ohio as we cut the ribbon on the final phase of the Nelsonville Bypass,” said Wray during the event.
Until now, U.S. 33 through Nelsonville — where it narrowed from a four lane highway to a two lane local road — was heavily congested, with a history of serious injury crashes.
As the largest transportation project ever constructed in southeast Ohio, the Nelsonville Bypass is the last piece in creating a limited-access corridor between Columbus, Ohio and Charleston, West Virginia. Since the 1980s, more than $330 million has been spent to upgrade the U.S. 33 Corridor. The new four-lane highway travels through Athens and Hocking counties and consists of two interchanges into historic Nelsonville, Ohio.
“The completion of this historical project improves safety for motorists and enhances the flow of commerce to and from southeast Ohio,” said ODOT District 10 Deputy Director Steve Williams.
U.S. 33 is a major route extending from the southeast corner of Michigan to Richmond, Virginia. U.S. 33 carries more than 73,000 vehicles per day, with 1,700 being trucks, in some stretches between Columbus, Ohio and Charleston, West Virginia, making it the eighth busiest truck route in Ohio.
Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis was in attendance and discussed the historical significance of the project, as well as the impact to the university.
“The idea for this project was initiated when I was a student at Ohio University by President Emeritus Vern Alden. He contributed to the early concepts of this project when he served as president,” said McDavis. “While this project will improve our connectivity, it has provided research funds to the university that have enabled us to transfer technology, serve our region and train undergraduate and graduate students as they performed research on this project. It is transformational educationally and interpersonally.”
Nearly five miles of the bypass bisects Wayne National Forest (WNF), Ohio's only national forest. This unique alignment prompted ODOT and WNF to implement several wildlife and environmental mitigation techniques never before seen on a transportation project in Ohio.
For more information on the Nelsonville Bypass, visit ODOT District 10 website at www.dot.state.oh.us/districts/D10.
Editor's note: A follow-up article with quotes from local, regional and state dignitaries and additional photos of the event will be included in an upcoming edition of the newspaper. Stay tuned! — Stephanie Filson, Managing Editor