Northwood sought reassurances from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) that the Wales Road grade separation project will not be delayed beyond 2012 due to plans by the BP refinery to build an electric substation at the site.
In April, ODOT said that construction of the project would be delayed for one year so that the BP can build an electric substation that would replace overhead wires near the site.
FirstEnergy has major power lines at Wales Road that feed electricity to the BP refinery. To relocate the lines would require a shutdown of the plant that would cost ODOT $1.5 million. Instead, BP has a shutdown scheduled for major retooling next year and plans to build a separate substation so it can have an independent feed that will get them off the FirstEnergy line going down Wales Road.
The $14 million project was going to be bid in December, with construction slated next year. The city will now have to wait until 2012.
Administrator Pat Bacon told city council at a meeting May 27 that two local businessmen had discussed their frustration about the delay with State Rep. Randy Gardner at a breakfast meeting at the end of May. They suggested that ODOT do the project in two phases, with the first phase ending at the electric lines. The project would then be completed the following year.
“Representative Gardner has always been supportive of this project, and he thought it was viable,” said Bacon. “Randy went ahead and contacted ODOT and set a meeting for June 7 at 8:20 in the morning at the district 2 office.”
Bacon said she would be unable to attend.
“I informed the representative that I could not attend, so he had asked if the mayor or president of council could attend, and if we were supportive of this idea,” said Bacon.
She said she had recently spoken to Mike Ligibel, ODOT’s district two administrator, who reassured her that BP still planned on building the substation.
“We’re still saving a minimum of $1 million of taxpayers’ money by waiting a year so that BP has its own electric supply and we’re not shutting that facility down,” said Bacon.
She also contacted Dave Dysart, deputy director of the district two office, about the project.
Dysart said the project cannot go forward without utility clearance, she said.
He also told Bacon that it was possible to do the project in two phases, she said.
“That means he has to send it back to the district office, it has to review the plans, resubmit them, and then it has to be approved by the state, which could take up to nine months. So we’d be saving three months. Is it worth it? I’m asking for your opinion because the mayor was going to try and attend the meeting? Should we be doing this, or go with the delay of one year?”
Councilman Randy Kozina said he didn’t think it was worth going through the process if it was only going to save three months time to get the project moving.
“I don’t see any need to do it,” he said.
Bacon said she’s spoken to Gardner in detail. “I’m very appreciative for the attention he’s given this, but I just think perhaps we’re spinning our wheels.”
“The initial delay I thought was virtually unforgiveable, but now that it’s over, and there’s nothing we can do about it, I don’t see wasting more state tax dollars over it,” said Kozina.
Bacon said she would cancel the meeting since council was uninterested in shaving just three months off the start of the project.
The project calls for the construction of two railroad overpasses on Wales Road that would effectively eliminate three railroad crossings on Drouillard and Wales roads.
The project was originally part of a $200 million, 10-year program former Gov. Bob Taft started in 2000 to fund railroad overpasses.
Survey, drainage, and environmental studies have been completed for the project.
The city has earmarked $900,000 for its local share of the project.