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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) will delay construction of the Wales Road overpass for one year so that BP Refinery can build an electric substation that would replace overhead wires near the site.

The $14 million project, which was going to be bid this December, with construction slated next year, will now have to wait until 2012, Northwood Administrator Pat Bacon told city council at a meeting April 1.

Bacon said she was contacted by Mike Ligibel, ODOT’s district two administrator, last month to inform her of the problem.

“Mike said, `Pat, we have a problem.’ When ODOT says we have a problem, it’s usually pretty major,” said Bacon.

FirstEnergy has major lines at Wales Road that feed electricity to the BP refinery, said Bacon. To relocate these lines would require a shutdown of the plant, which would cost ODOT $1.5 million.

“And that’s a really big deal,” said Bacon. “ODOT would be responsible to pay the $1.5 million because the problem is being created by the project, so therefore that would add to the cost of the project. It would come from taxpayers’ money.”

BP has a shutdown scheduled for major retooling next year that could save the company $1 million, said Bacon.

“BP plans on building a separate substation so that they will have an independent feed, and that will get them off this line Toledo Edison has going down Wales,” said Bacon. “There’s going to be this huge savings because they won’t have that great demand.”

BP plans on building the substation next year, she said.

“So ODOT plans to go ahead and delay the project close to a year. They have information directly from Edison and BP, and they feel comfortable that this is what’s really going to happen in the time frame they’re discussing. ODOT’s not happy about this. The city’s not happy about it, either. But when you look at the bottom line, it seems to be the most appropriate thing to do,” said Bacon.

Ground breaking for the project will be in the spring of 2012 instead of April, 2011, said Bacon.

“This plan has been going through ODOT for how many years before someone finally figured out there was a problem with that line?” asked Councilman Randy Kozina.

Bacon said 10 years.

“What a surprise,” said Kozina.

Councilman James Barton asked whether the cost of the project will increase within the next year.

Bacon said she and Ligibel had discussed costs. Had the project been built two years ago, “it would have cost substantially more than it would today,” she said, because the costs of steel and labor were higher at that time. Costs are cheaper today because of the recession. Still, she didn’t know if the cost of the project will go up next year.

“In one year, would it make that much difference in construction costs? We have no idea,” Bacon said to council.

The project, which calls for two railroad overpasses that would effectively eliminate three railroad crossings on Drouillard and Wales roads, was originally part of a $200 million, 10-year program former Governor Bob Taft started in 2000 to fund railroad overpasses.

Plans initially called for the construction of a rail-to-rail crossing to elevate CSX tracks over Norfolk Southern tracks at Vickers crossing as a regional solution to the train traffic in Northwood and surrounding communities. A railroad crossing study conducted by The Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments in 1993 showed approximately 130 trains cross four sets of Norfolk Southern and CSX at-grade tracks daily at Vickers Crossing, where tracks intersect, tying up traffic. The crossing also creates delays for the port because rail shipments must wait for the crossing to clear. But the city dropped those plans due to high costs. The city instead chose a cheaper and more limited option of building the two railroad overpasses that will swing south of Wales Road, west of the municipal building.

The city was caught off guard upon learning in 2006 that Congress had transferred $4 million in funds earmarked for the project to two other communities in Ohio. The funds had been transferred because they were originally set aside for the construction of the rail-to-rail crossing.

The Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) later announced it would fill the shortfall caused by the transferred funds.

Survey, road profile, drainage and environmental studies have been completed for the project.

The city has earmarked $900,000 for its local share of the project.