ARCHBOLD – A proposed project that would help bypass heavy commercial vehicle traffic from the Village of Archbold is approaching another possible step forward. If approved, however, that step could take up to 18 months.
Following the May completion of a separate, nearly $28,000 economic impact study, Archbold’s village council on July 6 approved going ahead with a preliminary engineering study to determine the feasibility of converting nine miles of County Road 24 to a new State Route 66. The transformation would effectively reroute commercial trucks around the village’s downtown area.
Six of the nine miles of County Road 24 targeted are in Fulton County, the remainder in Henry County. The next step for the proposal will be scheduling a meeting between engineers for the counties, the village, and the Ohio Department of Transportation and representatives of California-based Tetra Tech. The global engineering design firm, with an office in Toledo, has been selected to conduct the study, although no contract has been signed.
Archbold Administrator Dennis Howell said the meeting will determine the scope and cost of the estimated $1.5 million preliminary study. But he emphasized that, despite some misunderstanding, plans for a bypass project are still early in development.
“Nothing was ever scheduled. There were estimates made,” he said.
Howell said the preliminary study could last up to 18 months. The study has already been delayed by the economic impact study, which was due for completion in March but underwent several minor delays.
He said the completed study paints a positive impact of $30 million for the village. Archbold Mayor Jim Wyse said that could include additional business sales and payroll.
Following completion of both studies, the bypass project will need the approval of both ODOT’s Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) and the Ohio Turnpike Commission. If approval is granted funding would be sought from the turnpike commission for engineering, design, and construction costs.
A State Route 66 bypass, estimated to cost between $17 million and $20 million, was initially discussed when a turnpike interchange was installed north of Archbold in the 1990s. At the time, State Route 66 was moved to the interchange from Elmira, Ohio, and the state made a now long-forgotten promise to finish moving the state route when more funds became available.
“With all the leadership changes in the village, nobody in leadership positions were aware of that promise until the state notified the village leadership in 2014,” Wyse said.
In fact, the state notified the village in the 1960s that money for a State Route 66 bypass was available. But residents and downtown business owners who felt it would negatively impact the village economy successfully shot down the project.
“This has been discussed in this town for 50 years. It’s not a new topic,” Wyse said.
The preliminary study now on the board was requested by the mayor and the village council last year. It was approved 5-1 by a joint council of the Fulton County and Henry County commissioners.
Wyse was told an average of 900 commercial trucks rumble through Archbold daily, many making the downtown intersection of State Route 66 (N. Defiance Street) and Stryker Street a significant area of passage. He said the trucks not only play havoc with the condition of downtown streets but with the nearly 5,000 people who drive into the village each day to work.
The conditions the bypass would create would allow truck traffic coming into town–especially for businesses on the west side–to enter and leave the village more efficiently and not tie up traffic on the main streets.
To help facilitate that goal, the village razed the vacated Red Cross Drug Store at the State Route 66-Stryker Street intersection in the spring, and plan to widen the turning lanes. Deteriorating main village streets will be refurbished within the next three months.
“For the people trying to do business within the town, there are certainly traffic issues as well as safety issues with the significant amount of trucks we have,” Wyse said. He said the preliminary study would determine what rights of way and upgrades are needed, making truck traffic move more efficiently.
“Our downtown is not improving now,” he said. “I’m not sure changing nothing will improve anything. You’re either moving forward or moving backward. This is about the next 20 or 30 years, its not just about today.”
Economic impact studies from other areas of the country, available for review on Archbold’s village website (www.archbold.com), show that downtown businesses suffering to any extent from a comparable bypass were in towns with populations of less than 2,000 people or where the businesses were already in distress.
Howell said tentative schedules originally proposed for the bypass project’s three phases, including construction by 2017, are unlikely now.
“These things can take a long time,” he said.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.