Commissioners Seeking $20M to Finish Mall Road

The $1.9 million set aside by Belmont County commissioners to build a road connecting National Road with the Ohio Valley Plaza sits unused as county officials wait to see if the Ohio Department of Transportation will build a bridge across Interstate 70, connecting the plaza with the Ohio Valley Mall.

The Belmont County Transportation Improvement District, Belmont County commissioners, the city of St. Clairsville and Richland Township have joined together in submitting an application to Ohio Department of Transportation’s Transportation Review Advisory Council, seeking $20 million in TRAC funds for the completion of the total U.S. 40 /Mall Road project. The entire project would ultimately connect U.S. 40 with Mall Road through the Ohio Valley Mall and Ohio Valley Plaza, and involve construction of a bridge over Interstate 70 by ODOT.

The bridge then would connect to a road being constructed behind the mall by the mall’s owner, the Cafaro Co., with ODOT extending the roadway on to Mall Road.

TRAC money requested would fund ODOT’S portion of the project.

Belmont County commissioners already have earmarked $1.9 million toward building a connector road that begins the project.

The proposed road would begin at U.S. 40 near the St. Clairsville corporation line and the All for Fore One miniature golf course, extend west behind Sam’s Club at the Ohio Valley Plaza and turn south to wind behind the Lowe’s Home Improvement store.

It is at that point ODOT’s bridge project begins.

Commissioners Ginny Favede and Mark Thomas said the county will know later this year whether the project will receive the $20 million in TRAC funding, and there is $80 million available for projects this year.

The Transportation Review Advisory Council is charged with considering how these ODOT funds are allocated.

But Favede says there is no reason for the county to build the connector road unless there is a guarantee ODOT will build the bridge and complete the project.

“We will know in December if we receive the money,” Favede said.

“Without the guarantee of these funds, we have no intention of starting our end of the project without knowing the entire project will be complete. That’s been the problem all along. No one will be happier than me if the state provides the money.”

If the project doesn’t receive the $20 million in TRAC funding, the county will have to look at other options, Thomas said.

An alternative option could be a Federal Highways Administration Grant. Unlike Favede, Thomas believes the county’s connector road could be bid out soon by the County Transportation Improvement District.

“It’s slow progress,” he said. “The only thing that could happen in 2014 is (the connector road) could be completed this year.”

“At end of 2014, we should know if we get the TRAC funding. If we get the money, there will then be a couple of years of construction. We’re looking at least until 2016 until the bridge is constructed.”