Phase II of I-70 project approved

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A multi-million dollar roadway project is taking a stretch of road that connects to U.S. 40 all the way across I-70 toward the Ohio Valley Mall, giving access to a number of local businesses in St. Clairsville.

On Friday morning, both state and local officials signed off on Phase II of that construction.

“It means new growth and new jobs,” Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas said. “And that’s all very good news for Belmont County.”

A $22 million project to connect I-70 to a number of Belmont County businesses is good on a number of levels. The first, being safety and flow of traffic.

“This project will allow people to avoid five signalized intersections along Mall Road and Route 40,” said Dennis Bigler, Belmont County transportation improvement district chairman.

“Any time we can improve road safety for our residents, we are very happy,” Thomas said.

And with traffic having better access to local businesses. Officials anticipate that having a positive effect on the local economy.

“Any time you can invest in infrastructure, you can really open up the community for economic development and job creation,” said Senator Lou Gentile.

“We’re here to create jobs. We’re here to make this place a better place to live, a better place to work, and a better place to raise a family,” Thomas said.

Obtaining the funding for Phase 2 was a group effort.

“Because we partner well together, our residents are seeing major improvements in our road infrastructure, and that is fantastic,” Thomas said.

And like most major improvements, it’s going to take some time.

“I think a lot of people get antsy thinking when they see a part of this completed, the rest of it’s going to happen in the next 30 days, and it just doesn’t work like that,” Thomas said.

Thomas assures that the work will be worth the wait.

“I think the people here of Belmont County, all of Belmont County, will be happy to see this connector road completed in the next 18 months,” he said.

Officials say Phase II of the construction will begin sometime in March 2017, with the completion of the project by December 2018.