The Southern Ohio Veterans Memorial Highway (SOVMH) is entering its second year of construction, and is quickly nearing completion. In fact, several aspects of the project are finished including installation of culverts and construction of many of the roadway’s 22 bridges. The project, which was nearly two decades in the making, is right on track for the April 2019 deadline and is still planned to be open for travel by December 2018.
SOVMH, state Route 823, also known as the Portsmouth Bypass, is what the public-private partnership overseeing the project, Portsmouth Gateway Group (PGG) describes as the “single largest construction contract in Ohio’s road building history,” and is expected to have an equally large economic impact.
The $429 million project completes the Appalachian Highway System in Ohio and will be a 16-mile, 4-lane, divided, limited access highway, connecting U.S. 52 in the Sciotoville area to U.S. 23 in the Lucasville area.
The project is more than 75 percent complete, the PGG confirmed. The route was chosen by ODOT after various studies, reviews and analyses found the location near the Portsmouth Regional Airport as an ideal location for both transportation benefits and economic development.
Though the full economic benefit is yet to be seen, Fuller says the project is already having a positive economic impact, with 400 people working on the bypass during peak construction, many of which are local workers. In addition to use of the local workforce, much of the goods and services procured for the project are also locally acquired.
Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA) Executive Director Jason Kester discussed the bypass earlier in the year by explaining that the highway will open up many opportunities for the region.
“The two big economic impacts of the SOVMH are: increased attention on the area near the airport and the actual airport; and we’ve seen a significant increase in activity (i.e. people requesting info on) the area toward the south end of the highway – i.e., Wheelersburg-Hanging Rock,” said Kester.
In addition to creating new economic growth in these areas, the bypass will also increase access to leading area industrial sites, making the areas more marketable to outside developers and expanding companies.
“We’ve got a pretty good ability to go south and/or east/west out of our industrial sites in Haverhill – the new highway will open up the ability to go north,” Kester stated at the time.
Still there are those who fail to see the benefits of SOVMH.
“The other concept that baffles me is when I hear ‘the bypass is going to kill Portsmouth.’ I always follow that question up with ‘what businesses will be impacted?’” commented Kester.
Because the bypass will reroute traffic that would normally travel through Portsmouth, there is a fear that the project will damage local businesses.
“There’s the potential for a negative impact on gas stations and fast food restaurants and we need to try our best to mitigate those potential losses, but how will the highway impact Appalachian Wood Floors, Sole Choice, Morgan Brothers Jewelry, Vandervorts, Fork’N’Finger, etc. – it won’t,” stated Kester. “It has no impact on our industrial base economy businesses and I highly doubt anyone is cruising down U.S. 52 and decides to veer into downtown to buy a hammer or an engagement ring.”
Contractors are currently working throughout the entire corridor of the bypass, which has been divided into four segments.
More information about the bypass progress can be found by visiting the SOVMH website at www.pgg823.com. The website not only includes daily traffic and construction updates but also includes a fly-through video that features the highway’s corridors and bridges as they come to life.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.