A team of engineers behind the feasibility study for the proposed State Route 66 relocation onto County Road 24 are recommending the construction of roundabouts at key intersections along the corridor.
The study’s proposed final draft was presented to the Fulton County Commissioners last Thursday by Bob Seaman, Archbold’s village engineer, and Andy Langenderfer, senior project manager of Tetra Tech, an engineering consulting firm. Fulton County Engineer Frank Onweller, who has contributed to the study, was also in attendance.
Seaman told the commissioners that analysis of the portion of Country Road 24 under review showed that a corridor with roundabouts –a project estimated at $32 million–would be safer and more efficient, and would provide better traffic control on a high-speed corridor than alternatives considered. Those alternatives included an unsignalized corridor improvement with turn lanes at a cost just under $30 million.
The Ohio Department of Transportation, a project stakeholder along with the Village of Archbold and Fulton and Henry counties, told the engineers that, in fact, signalized rural intersections on high speed corridors are becoming a thing of past.
“With a two-way stop control you always have those potential issues with safety,” Seaman said.
The engineers also recommend a bypass as the best option for a grade separation improvement, at an estimated cost of $6.8 million.
In reaching their conclusion, the engineers considered the components for the study, which included alternatives for routing, traffic analyses, roadway assessment, drainage, bridge structure, utilities, and environmental analysis.
Seaman said the alternative selected provides the best overall ratings for the project’s criteria: removing trucks from downtown Archbold, providing a direct connection between the Ohio Turnpike and State Route 6, safety, operating efficiency, level of service, right-of-way, relocation and environmental impacts, and cost.
Langenderfer said the concern for years has been to provide a direct route between the turnpike and State Route 6 to the south. The proposed project would relocate State Route 66, which travels through downtown Archbold, one mile west onto the County Road 24 corridor.
Presently, traffic exiting the turnpike must drive through the village, passing through five traffic signals and a Norfolk Southern railroad crossing.
“There’s a lot of congestion and issues involved with the downtown area,” Langenderfer told the commissioners. “A lot of heavy traffic crowds downtown Archbold streets.”
He noted that between 2013 and 2015 there were 162 traffic accidents along the corridor. Of those, 95 were within Archbold village limits, and the majority of those at the Defiance-Stryker streets intersection. Ten involved tractor trailers.
The village had begun looking for a truck bypass on the west side of the village as far back as the 1960s.
Earnest discussion on how to resolve truck traffic and congestion in downtown Archbold began in 2004 between the village, Fulton County, and German Township. Seven years later, elected officials from Fulton, Henry, and Defiance counties and the township met to discuss relocating State Route 66 onto County Road 24.
In 2013, turnpike toll revenues became available for funding, and $1.3 million in federal highway money was awarded to conduct preliminary engineering. Archbold, which would become the designated lead agency for the project, contributed another $200,000.
Seaman said the next steps in the preliminary engineering process involve an ODOT review of the final draft of the feasibility study. Should the department deem the study acceptable it would develop the first stages of the project and preliminary right-of-way plans, which are covered by the preliminary process costs.
But, as the local public agency of the project, Archbold can decide whether or not to advance the preliminary process. The village can choose to accept the engineers’ recommendations, the alternative of signalized intersections or a combination of both. It’s likely a decision will be made in June.
An initial public meeting regarding the project was held as an open house Nov. 15, and attended by about 1,000 people. Should the project progress, another public meeting would be held in the first part of 2018.
Stage 1 of the project and preliminary right-of-way plans would be scheduled for completion by year’s end. Seaman said a final design and right-of-way acquisition have yet to be funded.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.