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Ohio River span one of three public-private possibilities

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — Officials lobbying for the construction of a new Ohio River bridge between an area south of Wellsburg and Brilliant are optimistic work on the span can begin in 2016.

John Brown, executive director of the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission, said West Virginia Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox advised him and other local officials the acquisition of rights of way for the proposed span could start in 2016.

Brown, Wellsburg Mayor Sue Simonetti, Wellsburg City Manager Mark Henne, state Senators Jack Yost, D-Wellsburg, and Robert “Rocky” Fitzsimmons, D-Wheeling; and Del. Phil Diserio, D-Brooke, met with Mattox in Charleston on May 20 to discuss the project’s status.

Henne said the bridge is one of three major projects being considered for P3 funding, or funds secured through a public-private partnership.

Brown said the other two are the development of the King Coal Expressway from Williamstown to Bluefield; and the U.S. Route 35 Corridor, a 35-mile four-lane highway through Mason and Putnam counties to Interstate Route 64.

Brown said P3 funding isn’t new and has been adopted in other states to pursue infrastructure projects for which public funds aren’t currently available.

He noted recently the Ohio Department of Transportation made plans to seek private funding for the development of the second phase of downtown Cleveland’s second innerbelt bridge project. Plans call for ODOT to repay the private party with money collected over time through the gas tax.

Simonetti said state highway officials are optimistic the cost for the estimated $120 million span could be repaid in 10 years following its completion.

She noted the next step for the project is an agreement between state highway officials in West Virginia and Ohio involving funding for the project…

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