GALLIPOLIS — Representatives of the Ohio Department of Transportation and its consulting engineering firm discussed concerns with potential changes coming to the Ohio 7 and US 35 interchange last week by displaying problem areas and traffic volumes through a recent planning study of the area.
Steve Bergman, a project manager with consulting firm Mannik and Smith Group along with Beth Thornton, a lead engineer with the firm, and Alan Craig, ODOT District 10 planning and engineer, LPA and consultant contracts manager presented the study before the commissioners.
“District 10 is looking at the interchange area,” said Craig. “Ever since the reconfiguration of the Silver Bridge Collapse, we’ve basically been doing safety studies every three to four years in this area. It never really has operated efficiently or correctly so we want to take a global look at the whole area and see what improvements can be made and if it’s working the way we would want it. So we engaged the firm of Mannik and Smith to see about options. Right now, this is a planning study. The results of this study would be used to obtain funding for potential construction projects in the future.”
The planning study contains crash and traffic volume data and documents existing conditions of the roads.
“We’re looking at operation, safety, environmental and geometry to see if there are any deficiencies in the existing area,” said Bergman.
The study target area extends northeast to US 35’s connection with State Route 7, US 35’s approach to the Silver Bridge, Farm Road, Burnett Road, State Route 735, Ohio 7’s entrances and exits onto US 35 and southwest onto Eastern Avenue in Gallipolis.
“Right now, we’re treating this as one project for planning purposes,” said Bergman. “At some point, these may split into two separate projects.”
Thornton said the interchange is a unique challenge given its location in a valley and the flooding problems that come with it, along with its proximity to the Gallia-Meigs Regional Airport. While looking at numbers involved with the study, peak hour traffic is utilized to study worse case scenarios.
Both County Commissioners Harold Montgomery and David Smith said the engineers may want to take a closer look at Farm Road as it was reportedly at one point meant to connect with Second Avenue in Gallipolis in hopes of alleviating traffic concerns on Eastern Avenue. The engineers said they had heard the same concern voiced before and would presenting some conceptual alternative traffic solutions to area stakeholders as the interchange discussion continues.
According to crash history obtained from the meeting, between 2014 and 2016, the highest three crash areas detailed in the study were at an intersection with Eastern Avenue entering the Silver Bridge Plaza totally at 23 collisions, a no traffic light entrance into Ohio River Plaza from Eastern Avenue totaling at 20 collisions and the intersection of Burnett Road with highway State Route 735.
Some peak traffic observed by the study noted that around 15,000 travel Eastern Avenue between its intersection with the Silver Bridge Plaza and GKN Sinter Boulevard daily. Nearly 17,000 vehicles were counted daily utilizing US 35’s connection with the Silver Bridge just west of US 35’s connection with State Route 735 and Burnett Road.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.