|Route 18 on track for CSX|
|Written by By JAN LARSON Sentinel County Editor|
|Tuesday, 02 June 2009 10:45|
NORTH BALTIMORE - The proposed railyard near North Baltimore has pushed a neighboring roadway onto a national ranking.
The Federal Highway Administration has designated Ohio 18 as a "National Highway System Intermodal Connector." While that long title may not sound like much, it could help local officials secure state or federal funding.
And if the CSX railyard increases rail and road traffic as much as expected, that funding could come in handy to handle increased truck traffic and reduce ill effects on local residents.
"It's a vital component of that project," Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said of the Route 18 connection to Interstate 75.
Though the railyard's primary purpose is to rearrange freight for its next destination, the secondary result will be more semi traffic trucking freight to or from area distribution centers.
An estimated 70 trucks a day are expected to haul freight from the railyard, to be built in Henry Township just west of North Baltimore.
"Most truckers I talk to, say just add a zero to that 70," Wood County Engineer Ray Huber said last year during a meeting with the county commissioners.
"It's obviously going to have an impact on the volume and flow of truck traffic," agreed Tom Blaha, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission.
Though the CSX facility will create jobs and tax revenue for the area, it will also create traffic problems in North Baltimore, according to Huber.
"They have to go right through downtown North Baltimore," Huber said of trucks traveling on Route 18 from the railyard to I-75. "I can see what's going to happen in that community in short order."
So Huber and the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments have been trying to plan ahead for the inevitable. They suggested that Route 18 be put on a list of "connector" routes between the national highway system and major ports. By getting the route on that list, the project stands a better chance of scoring high in a selection process when the Ohio Department of Transportation or Federal Highway Administration has funding available.
"We want to get it on the radar screen now, before it needs work," Huber told the commissioners.
Though no specific plan to cure traffic problems is in place, Huber said the best solution may be a bypass around North Baltimore. The most likely route would be a continuation of Route 18 around the southwest side of the village, so trucks could avoid the sharp turns the route makes south of town and again in the middle of the downtown area.
Ohio Department of Transportation officials met with the county commissioners last week and reinforced that they want recommendations from local officials of how to best handle the increased truck traffic.
The impact may reach as far as I-75, which is already being considered for widening to three lanes between Perrysburg and Findlay.
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