County offices collaborate to resolve road issues –
By Patricia Beech –
Rural roads shared by horse-drawn buggies, tourists, local traffic, and commercial truckers can create a unique set of problems for the county highway department, especially when GPS technology is thrown into the mix.
According to Adams County Engineer David Hook, semi trucks traveling into the county’s Amish area are being guided by GPS onto races Run Road where they’re encountering a narrow twisting S-bridge.
“It’s been a hazard since the Harshaville Covered Bridge was completed and GPS came into being,” says Hook. “A lot of truckers are trying to use that road and they’re getting stuck because they can’t make the turn onto the bridge.”
The regular occurrence of semi trucks listing off the roadway after becoming entangled in the bridge’s guard rails convinced Hook to turn to the county’s Economic & Community Development (ACECD) office for solutions.
“The businesses being effected by this road issue are the Amish businesses which bring in tourism,” said ACECD Director Holly Johnson. “One of the jobs the Board of County Commissioners has charged our office with is to help increase travel and tourism, but before we can do that we have to improve the infrastructure, and we do that by helping the county engineer’s office with the funding it needs to improve the roadways.”
Working together, Johnson and Hook successfully procured enough grant money to not only straighten the bridge on Graces Run Road, but also to make repairs to several roadways leading into the Wheat Ridge area.
The Graces Run bridge project is not the first collaboration between the County Engineer’s office and the ACECD office. Hook’s department is historically underfunded, surviving on motor vehicle and gas tax monies. The County Engineer’s budget hasn’t budged since 2006 even though the department’s costs have doubled. “I have less and less money each year,” says Hook, who is also restrained by strict government guidelines.
Johnson and the ACECD make up for the shortfalls.
“We have to be very creative in our efforts to help the Engineer’s office find financing,” said Johnson, who worked with Hook for over a year to put the grant-funding application together. “We were able to apply for competitive set-aside grants and the Critical Infrastructure Grant because this bridge fit perfectly into the description requirements of both grants.”
Additionally, Hook applied for a grant through the Ohio Public Works Funds which finances upgrades and improvements on roadways. His department has already begun work making repairs to the pavement on Graces Run Road, Wheat Ridge Road, Tater Ridge Road and Unity Road, all of which are access points to the Amish area.
“Once we get the repairs made we’ll resurface and actually add new guard rails in places to create additional safety, especially approaching the bridge,” said Hook.
“This is how two offices can plan and work together to make great things happen,” said Johnson. “This was key to the success of this project.”
Work on the Graces Run bridge is expected to begin next spring. The current bridge is 17 feet wide and 65 feet long. When the $3,000,000 project is completed the new bridge, which will measure 28 feet wide and nearly 80 feet long, is expected to alleviate some of the congestion leading into the Amish community.
“We have to consider the mix of tourist traffic, local traffic, buggy traffic, bicycle traffic and delivery truck traffic and how they all mesh together on these roadways,” said Hook. “Upgrading this bridge will add a whole new access point to the Amish community on Wheat Ridge.”