County to Commit $1.9M To I-70/Mall Road Project

Belmont County commissioners Wednesday agreed to commit $1.9 million toward completion of the Interstate 70/Mall Road connector project, but stopped short of transferring the funds for spending.

Commissioners unanimously passed a motion promising funds not to exceed $1.9 million to the Belmont County Transportation Improvement District subject to the signing of an intergovernmental agreement with the county TID. The dollars would be put toward constructing a connector road near the All Fore One miniature golf course along U.S. 40 that would extend west of the Ohio Valley Plaza behind Sam’s Club and wind behind the Lowe’s Home Improvement store. A bridge over I-70 would be constructed by the Ohio Department of Transportation to link it with a roadway being constructed behind the Ohio Valley Mall by the Cafaro Co., owners of the mall. The completed ODOT project would extend the new highway on to Mall Road.

Commissioners acknowledged Wednesday they do not yet have the full $1.9 million available in their 2014 budget for the project. Last year, they transferred $1 million of the funds earmarked for the work to pay for paving in the county, and only $900,000 remains. They said they hope to make up the remainder with money expected in the coming months through the county’s leasing of property for oil and gas drilling.

Commissioners explained their move to commit the $1.9 million now was necessary as ODOT seeks grant funding to pay for the overall project.

“These funds are not being moved at the present time – they are committed to being moved,” said Commissioner Mark Thomas. “There has to be an agreement that is set and finalized between the board of commissioners and the Belmont County Transportation Improvement District. That agreement, once it is signed, will set for the parameters of where the funds will be used … the when, and how. That will all be detailed.”

Commissioner Ginny Favede has asked ODOT Deputy Director Lloyd McAdams to come to St. Clairsville for a status meeting with with interested parties. McAdams has promised to come to St. Clairsville next week, and there will be a separate meeting with the TID to discuss an intergovernmental agreement involving the connector road, Favede said. She expects commissioners to take action on the contract March 5.

“The agreement would allow the TID to be the executors of the project, but we are not anticipating moving the money until the funds are in place to move forward,” she said. “There were some concerns that we were building a stub road. I’m committed to building a complete project, and I believe my colleagues are, as well.”

The overall project will relieve much of the traffic congestion in the Mall Road area, as well as open up additional properties for development, according to Commission President Matt Coffland.