Bridge opening delayed, 2018 completion remains planned

T-L Photo/ ROBERT A. DEFRANK Work on the Mall Road bridge continues. A limited use date, originally planned for Saturday, was pushed back because of delays in arranging for relocating utilities.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Although there had been some hope that the Mall Road bridge over Interstate 70 would be open for limited use Saturday, utility delays have pushed back the date into unknown territory.

The Ohio Department of Transportation had informed officials of the city of St. Clairsville last week that an opening date of Sept. 15 was possible. But during a Thursday morning meeting of Belmont County Transportation Improvement District, ODOT officials reportedly said it was necessary to re-evaluate.

“We did have a TID meeting (Thursday) morning, and the TID board was updated by ODOT that the bridge and the road will not be open by this Saturday,” Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas said.

“It was at one point in time the date we were expecting,” said Lauren Borell, spokeswoman for ODOT. “As of right now, that date’s off the table because of utilities. We’re waiting on them to come in and move, and then we can more forward with the work.”

She said ODOT could not set a new date for the limited opening of the bridge.

“We’re waiting on the utilities companies to let us know, unfortunately, when they will be in,” she said. “There’s several of them…Once that work is complete, we’ll be able to move forward.”

Borell said weather could further stall the project.

“That’s going to be a factor, especially with this hurricane (Florence) coming through,” she said. “That’s put a damper on things as well, so it’s hard to put a time stamp. I know everybody’s excited about it, and the project has gone great. This is just a hiccup.”

Borell said the optimistic possibility that the entire project might be completed by fall also would likely be pushed back.

“As soon as we have more information about the project moving forward, we’re definitely going get that out there,” she said.

“In the near future, ODOT, the county and the city will formally announce when that road will open,” Thomas said. “In a nutshell, when the road and bridge do open, it will only be to the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant and the Marriott Residence Inn. The road from there out to Mall Ring Road at the Ohio Valley Mall will be closed for five weeks for a rebuild of that entire road to match the new road being built now…The purpose of this opening is to allow us to close the existing road from (Buffalo Wild Wings) and the Marriott out to Mall Ring Road.”

Officials said they hope for a full completion before December.

“If all goes well, and we have a decent next 60 days as far as weather…I think we will still make the completion date…sometime in mid to late November,” Thomas said. “The contractor, along with ODOT, the city of St. Clairsville and the county, and the Cafaro Co., owners of the mall, are really looking to get this thing done as quickly as possible so as not to interrupt the 2018 holiday season.”

The project has included local funding partners, along with the Transportation Review Advisory Council, which approved funding of $3.9 million in 2015. The formation of the Belmont County Transportation Improvement District was another factor in preparing for the project. The TID provided $1.1 million, as well as the design and construction of the Phase I.

Belomar Regional Council provided $1 million, and the Governor’s Office of Appalachia provided $500,000. Private right-of-way donations also were provided by the Cafaro family that owns the Ohio Valley Mall and by Rob Stein of St. Clair Commons. The earliest funding source was an earmark from 2005 for close to $7 million.

The project includes the construction of the 1.67-mile connector road from U.S. 40 across I-70 to the intersection of Mall and Banfield roads, reconstructing 0.59 miles of the existing Mall Ring Road and building the new bridge over I-70.

The road will continue north from there to Phase I of the Commons Mall Crossing Road. It was built by the Belmont County TID in 2015 and connects to U.S. 40. The goal is reduce traffic congestion and increase access to the retail sites in the area, including the Ohio Valley Plaza and the Ohio Valley Mall.

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