NELSONVILLE — The opening this week of the U.S. 33 Nelsonville Bypass was a dream come true for engineers and transportation officials who had spent sometimes entire careers prodding it through to fruition. The bypass is an 8.5-mile section of four-lane highway that serves as the largest transportation project in southeast Ohio history and the final part of the U.S. 33 Corridor that safely connects Columbus, Ohio through Meigs County to Charleston, W.Va. and all parts south of there.
Ribbon cuttings for transportation projects are certainly good days for local, state and regional public officials and politicians, but marking the completion of a project like the U.S. 33 Nelsonville Bypass, which took nearly 50 years to plan, fund and construct, holds a special place in the hearts of employees with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) — some of whom have spent decades working on the $160 million project.
ODOT District 10 Deputy Director Steve Williams, P.E., spoke to the crowd of more than a hundred excited people gathered to celebrate the transportation accomplishment, noting specifically the unprecedented work in environmental mitigation.
“These two projects combined, $160 million in construction, create one of the largest construction projects we have had at [ODOT] District 10,” said Williams. “The numbers get big, so let’s try to put them in perspective, 26 million yards of dirt has been moved on these projects; that’s enough to fill the Empire State Building 20 times. Asphalt and concrete pavement that were placed on these two projects — enough to cover 76 football fields.
“Since 1980, we have spent more than $330 million to upgrade this Corridor — the Lancaster Bypass, Athens to Darwin, the Ravenswood Connector — and I am so honored that in District 10, I’ve had the opportunity to work on every one of these projects,” noted Williams in his remarks.
“It’s a good day,” said former ODOT District 10 Deputy Director George Collins of Reedsville. Collins was in attendance at Tuesday’s opening and spoke to the Sunday Times-Sentinel afterward.
“I think we discussed this project in some way every day that I was deputy director,” Collins said, smiling. “This project has been a long time coming for a lot of people. I am so proud to be here today, and I know there are countless others who feel the same way. It was a tremendous effort that has involved so many over the years.”
Kenner Bush, Athens resident and longtime advocate for the progress of transportation projects throughout southeast Ohio, addressed the crowd last.
“Well, Earl, we made it!” started Bush, referring to longtime colleague and partner in “persistent” transportation advocacy Earl Matthews, age 93, also of Athens.
“As has already been noted today, the Nelsonville Bypass is a capstone of a 48-year struggle, spanning seven state administrations, to finally break down the transportation barriers to a better life for our people in this part of the state,” said Bush. “There’s one thing in lobbying for highways, that is longevity and persistence, and all of that started with the concept and development of the Appalachian Development program and the idea of running a highway across southern Ohio.”