FOSTORIA - An $8.7 million earmark in the federal transportation bill passed last week by the U.S. House has raised hopes that part of a long-discussed "loop road" around Fostoria will eventually be built.
The loop would be built mostly on existing roads surrounding the city and would ease truck traffic on the maze of state and federal roads that zig-zags through Fostoria, Mayor John Davoli said yesterday. He said inclusion of the $8.7 million item, which would fund engineering and construction of the eastern half of the loop in Seneca County, was a welcome boost to the project, which has been talked about for decades.
"It's been going on for almost 45 years, and this is the first point where it seems to be getting serious," Mr. Davoli said.
The loop is to be built along with three railway overpasses in the Fostoria area. Overpasses are planned at Tiffin Street, Township Road 43, and Jones Road/County Road 592.
State funding has been approved for all three overpasses, which are expected to cost more than $3 million apiece. Construction has not been scheduled on any of the grade-separations, and Mr. Davoli said he expects the loop road project to take 10 or more years to complete.
"I would have to imagine it would be a good, decade-long project," he said. "We want to do it, and we want to do it right."
Four years ago, city officials proposed a loop road around the city using mostly existing roads. Initial plans envisioned the eastern half of the loop using Stearns Road, Township Road 47, County Road 60, Township Road 43, and Zeller Road to carry traffic from State Rt. 199 and U.S. 23 north of town back to U.S. 23 in south Fostoria.
In the 1990s, city officials discussed building a U.S. 23 bypass east of Fostoria, but the idea was dropped because of fierce opposition from residents of neighboring Jackson and Loudon townships.
Richard Findley, a Jackson Township trustee, said residents did not want to give up homes and farmland to make way for a bypass or have local roads closed to allow for a limited-access highway. But the idea of a loop road, which wouldn't push as far into his township, has won more acceptance from residents, he said.
"It's something that's feasible, and it's something I can live with, because we're not talking about a lot of people losing their farms, losing their homes," he said.
Mr. Findley said he isn't too concerned about extra truck traffic on a loop route. Plenty of trucks already use township roads, such as car haulers that take Township Road 47 to get to a Norfolk Southern rail yard that distributes Ford cars.
U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R., Old Fort) secured the funding for the loop project as part of the six-year, $284 billion highway and transit construction bill approved by the House. A similar measure is working its way through the Senate.
The congressman said he pushed for the funding because the Fostoria area needs a better way to handle through traffic that's headed north toward Toledo or south toward Columbus.
"I think it's important to get a lot of the traffic out of downtown and off of Countyline Street," Mr. Gillmor said. "It's an ease-of-transit issue, and it's also a safety issue."
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