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Published: Tuesday, 8/16/2005

Williams County turnpike plazas will be closed

BLADE STAFF

BEREA, Ohio - The Ohio Turnpike Commission voted yesterday to close a pair of service plazas in Williams County early next year rather than upgrade the water and sewage treatment facilities there.

The commission intends to replace the Indian Meadow and Tiffin River plazas 20 miles east of the Indiana border with a pair of truck stop-style plazas 15 to 20 miles farther east in Fulton County. But until the truck-stop project is built, closing the Williams County plazas will create a 60-mile gap between service areas on the west end of the Ohio Turnpike and the east end of the Indiana Toll Road.

The Williams County plazas are the only pair on the turnpike that don't have access to municipal water and sewer service, and the turnpike commission would be required to upgrade the treatment facilities there in order to obtain permit renewals next year, Gary Suhadolnik, the turnpike's executive director, said yesterday.

"One way or another, we're going to rebuild the facilities on that part of the turnpike," he said. "It wouldn't make any sense to put good money into a 50-year-old facility."

The plazas will close during the first week of January, probably midweek after the New Year's Day, 2006, holiday weekend traffic dies down, Mr. Suhadolnik said.

Although turnpike officials have contacted several landowners near the State Rt. 109 interchange west of Delta, no firm location has been chosen for the proposed truck stop-style service plazas, and no time line exists for making a choice, he said.

Once the new plazas are finished and in use, the Fallen Timbers and Oak Openings plazas near Swanton also would close and would not be replaced.

The two pairs of service plazas west of the Toledo area are the smallest and least-used on the turnpike, and toll-road officials developed the truck-stop concept as a way to consolidate them and at the same time make the turnpike more attractive to truckers.

In other business yesterday, the commission elected Joseph Balog, of Brecksville, Ohio, as its new chairman. Mr. Balog, who had been vice chairman, succeeds Tom Noe, who resigned from the commission on May 10 amid multiple investigations into state investments in rare-coin funds he managed and possible violations of federal election laws governing campaign contribution limits.

Mr. Balog has been on the turnpike commission since July 1, 2003. David Regula, of Navarre, Ohio, was elected to take the vice chairman's seat.



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