Route 7 Woes: Delays Continue

Motorists traveling state Ohio 7 south from Brilliant to Rush Run who are tired of several miles of lane restrictions will have to wait even longer for the barricades to be moved.

There are now three sections of failing hillsides that are under construction or about to see work begin.

The first section is in the Rush Run area. Work on digging back the hillside into benches is expected to be completed in late summer, but a section of hillside just south of the first section also needs work, said Becky Giauque, Ohio Department of Transportation District 11 spokesperson.

Work on the second section of the hillside began with trees being cut down and resulted in traffic being stopped on Ohio 7 during the past several weeks.

The tree cutting work is completed, but blasting continues on the first section in Rush Run, Giauque said.

Traffic will be stopped weekdays for a short period around 4 p.m. for blasting.

Work on the second section of hillside south of Rush Run will begin in the fall and is scheduled to be completed in November 2015.

Another section, north of Brilliant, is in the design phase but work is being hampered with environmental concerns.

The hillside face failed in 2011 and ODOT built a long wall in the southbound lanes to protect vehicles, narrowing the road to one lane in each direction.

The 3,800-foot-long wall is 12 feet high and 10 feet thick.

Tom Stratton, ODOT District 11 environmental coordinator, said a pair of eagles was found nesting near the top of the hillside.

ODOT received permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to knock over a tree where the eagles had been nesting, Stratton said, but the eagles moved their nest to a nearby tree, he said. The Indiana bat, an endangered species, also was detected on the hillside.

Stratton said U.S. Fish and Wildlife gave ODOT permission to remove trees on the hillside only from October to March, when the bats are in hibernation for the winter.

The northern long eared bat, which will be placed on the endangered species list, also was detected on the hillside, Stratton said.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife on Monday gave ODOT permission to remove trees on the hillside during the October through March window.

ODOT had to hire a consultant to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife for the permits.

Because the eagles moved the nest, ODOT will have to reapply to fish and wildlife to take down the tree where the eagles have moved to, Stratton said.

The tree will have to be removed between fall and spring, before the eagles lay eggs and the eggs hatch, he said,

Giauque said construction on the hillside is expected to begin in the spring of 2015 and be completed in the summer of 2016.

All three projects will cost about $73 million, with federal funds being obtained for the work, ODOT reported.