There is no longer anything tentative about the Ohio Department of Transportation’s plans to hold a ribbon-cutting for the long talked about Southern Ohio Veterans Memorial Highway or State Route 823.
ODOT district 9 spokeswoman Kathleen Fuller confirmed Tuesday ODOT plans to go ahead with a ribbon-cutting for the $634 million project 1:30 p.m., Dec. 13 at Sunshine Church of Christ, 34 Barklow Rd., Portsmouth.
For the first time, Fuller also announced the opening day for what is often informally titled the Portsmouth bypass. Although she did not have an exact time, Fuller said the roadway will open to the general public mid-to-late morning Friday. She added the exact timing depends on how quickly workers can remove barricades and so on from the new highway.
Following the ribbon-cutting on Thursday, local veterans’ groups, clusters of classic cars and others will become the first private citizens to drive the new road, part of a motorcade to access SR 823 from State Route 335 near the Scioto County Airport. Fuller said the group will travel from there to U.S. 23 and back again.
Despite some Facebook rumors to the contrary, Fuller said local veterans’ groups will definitely be involved in the motorcade given the formal name of the highway. American Legion Posts 622 and 363 are scheduled to present the colors for the event. American Legion Post 23 from Portsmouth also will take part in the ribbon-cutting. One veteran group has promised to supply a vintage Jeep for the occasion, Fuller added previously.
Stretching 16 miles and connecting U.S. 52 east of Sciotoville to U.S. 23 north of Lucasville, the $634 million project is the first ever public/private road enterprise built in Ohio.
Even when the bypass is complete, private developers, the Portsmouth Gateway Group, will be responsible for the upkeep of the road for 35 years. They will be paid what Fuller called annual “availability payments” as long as the highway remains in good condition. ODOT will only will be responsible for removal of ice and snow.
Fuller said previously once the bypass is complete, District 9 has no further big projects on the table at this time. She said there are no current plans to address any perceived congestion on U.S. 23 between Portsmouth and Columbus. She added District 9 previously took steps to relieve chokepoints on the roadway around Waverley and Piketon. She also said officials believe the bypass addresses the biggest remaining chokepoints along U.S. 23.