Committee thinking of ways to “bypass the bypass”

By Frank Lewis

January 9, 2014

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

Portsmouth Vice Mayor Kevin W. Johnson, chairman of the city’s Economic Development Committee, says it’s never to soon for the city to start planning to find ways to get people to bypass the bypass.

Wednesday night the Committee discussed the need for a comprehensive plan as well as what the city should do to prepare for the economic impact of the future Portsmouth Bypass linking U.S. 23 and U.S. 52.

“We don’t know what the impact is,” Johnson said. “And from what I can tell from my conversations with the Clinton County Regional Planning Commission. The city of Wilmington was bypassed. We already know that it is going to be negative. We already know that ODOT (Ohio Department of Transportation) has estimated 15,000 vehicles will be bypassing us a day. How that breaks down we need to find out - how many are passenger vehicles. Approximately how many will be commercial. Unlike the other bypasses that we found, around the two intersections that will be built between Lucasville and Wheelersburg, like the one at the (Minford) airport, there’s no direct link from either one of them to Portsmouth.”

Johnson said, in the other bypasses, there are U.S. routes that come off the bypass directly into the town it bypasses. People on the proposed Portsmouth Bypass have no direct access to the city of Portsmouth.

“What we’ve discussed last night, we’ve got about seven years to deal with this, but the key thing for me is financial; that we need to find a way to start banking some money, and utilizing all the resources that we can to be absolutely ready seven or eight years from now,” Johnson said. “In addition to that, we have found that there are a few things that we can do with ODOT. One is from an aesthetics charter. We can negotiate with ODOT on how that bypass looks.”

Johnson gave as an example the Wilmington Bypass, in which they were able to get the county’s logo embedded in the concrete overpass, “which is a big deal, because that logo tells you essentially where you are. It marks it as local.”

Johnson said the city of Wilmington, however, was unsuccessful in its attempt to obtain brown signage.

“Those are signs that are devoted to attractions,” Johnson said. “It is brown and it denotes a major site, like King’s Island. But you only qualify for that brown signage given the number of people that actually visit that, and I think our murals qualify for that because of the numbers of people who come in for that. It’s recognized as a huge tourist item. So we qualify for signage to try to get people not to take the bypass.”

Johnson said the reason the city needs to raise money is the electronic sign that costs around $70,000. He said that sign can constantly change its message. That signage can feature a restaurant, a motel, Shawnee Lodge, and the murals as well.

“There’s a potential that we can have that accomplished,” Johnson said. “And you would have two or three of them north and east of us with different messages. The key is - we’re planning. We’re not going to wait for the bypass to open.”

The Economic Development Committee also discussed the city’s need for a comprehensive plan. Comprehensive plans typically address major elements of community development in a comprehensive way, providing an overall and long-term vision of development that links the various elements of the community. A comprehensive plan will require much planning, public input and City Council/City Manager input. Johnson said it is also very important to the future of Portsmouth.

Johnson said he is currently seeking help from the community.

“We’re looking for more people who are looking to be a part of the Committee, especially people with knowledge in fields such as financial and research; people with negotiating skills to help us negotiate with ODOT,” Johnson said.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.