By Wayne Allen
Ground was officially broken in late June on the Southern Ohio Veterans Memorial Highway. The project is anticipated to take years to complete and employ hundreds of people in the process.
Ohio Department of Transportation awarded a contract last fall to the Portsmouth Gateway Group for development of the project, and completion of the new roadway is targeted for December 2018. Once built, the new S.R. 823 will complete the Ohio’s missing link of the Appalachian Development Highway System.
Once constructed, the Portsmouth Gateway Group will maintain the roadway for 35 years.
Speaking of the progress of the project, Kathleen Fuller, ODOT District 9 spokeswoman, said everything is moving along nicely.
“They are moving dirt and the rain has not been our friend lately,” Fuller said. “They have been able to get on top of the hills and start working near the Lucasville-Minford Road area. You’ll see equipment moving in that area.”
She said there is work being done, but they are trying to stay out of the low-laying areas because of recent rains.
Fuller said blasting operations are anticipated to start soon on the project. In preparation a company will be going door-to-door informing people about what’s going to happen.
“We’re getting ready for blasting operations. One of the things they are doing that people may want to take note of is, there’s a company going door-to-door meeting with people who are living within a certain radius of the project area where blasting will occur,” Fuller said.
There will be an estimated 400 semi-truck loads of explosives used and there will be 260 miles of holes drilled for blasting.
Fuller said some local roads have been closed as a part of the project and will remain closed over the course of the project.
Township Road 234 (Shumway Hollow Road) between S.R. 335 and C.R. 31 (Swauger Valley Road) for its relocation and interchange construction at S.R. 335. The closure is scheduled to be in effect through the duration of the project, and while it is closed, thru-traffic motorists may detour locally via Blake Hollow Road.
Fuller said contractors have been hiring people as the need arises. She said the need for workers change with the section of the project being worked on, so the number employed fluctuates.
“When they hire they will be employing people out of the local trades. They may have a six month job, it may be a year or it may be three years. It’s hard to say. The number (of employed) will be very fluid and will constantly change,” Fuller said.
It’s estimated there will be about 300 people hired to work on the project with around 100 management people hired to work on the project.
The project is a 16-mile, limited access, four-lane highway that will bypass about 26 miles of U.S. 52 and U.S. 23 in Portsmouth. Once completed, ODOT estimates it will reduce travel time by 16 minutes compared to the alternative routes in the area.
For more information about the Portsmouth Gateway Group visit, www.portsmouthjv.com.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 1933 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT