Mayor: U.S. 250 endangers public

MILAN Mayor Robert Bickley believes the Ohio Department of Transportation is putting people's safety
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

MILAN

Mayor Robert Bickley believes the Ohio Department of Transportation is putting people's safety at unnecessary risk.

ODOT refuses to pay for repairs to U.S. 250 in Milan near the highway's Rattlesnake Creek bridge even though the department itself says neglecting those repairs could lead to the highway collapsing.

Village officials say waterways that flooded in August resulted in dirt and soil eroding from a portion of the highway's guardrails.

"The berm has slipped away and the guard rail is ready to go," Bickley said. "I think it's dangerous. I think anybody who sees it will see it's an encroaching thing."

After reporting the damage around the end of August, Milan village officials received word from ODOT that the village must pay to fix the interstate highway.

The department estimated the highway's repair will cost more than $100,000, but believes Ohio law requires the village, not ODOT, to foot the bill.

Milan officials disagree.

Both ODOT and local governments with interstate highways, like Milan, receive money from the state's gasoline tax.

Local governments' smaller tax revenue is used to pay for routine maintenance while, ODOT, whose budget is much larger, pays for major repairs.

"The village is required by Ohio Revised Code to provide routine maintenance on state and federal highways," Milan village administrator Bruce Bowie said. "This failure is clearly not a structural failure and not routine maintenance."

Bowie said even if the village wanted to pay for the repairs itself, it cannot afford to do so.

Milan receives a little more than $2,900 to pay for maintenance, much less than the estimated $100,000 cost to repair the highway.

On Nov. 2, ODOT Highway management administrator Tim Farley sent Bowie a letter informing him of the apparently imminent danger the highway's condition poses to the public.

"This is a serious safety issue and must be resolved before there is injury to the traveling public or further undermining of guardrail safety features," he said in the letter.

"Additionally, as the erosion migrates closer to the edge of the roadway there is an increased likelihood of a collapse of the highway."

Farley threatened that if the village did not respond by Nov. 9, ODOT would fix the road and send city officials the bill.

"ODOT will proceed with measures to secure an emergency contract to repair this hazard affecting the safety and well-being of the public traveling this stretch of roadway within the Milan corporation limits," he said.

ODOT Spokesman Brian Stacy contradicted that statement Monday afternoon, saying that although the highway is a concern for ODOT, its condition does not put the public in any immediate danger.

"We're obviously concerned because it's an area along a highway," he said. If we were concerned that the road was going to collapse, we would close the highway. We're not there yet."

In response to ODOT's letter, Bickley threatened to close Milan's portion of U.S. 250 to through traffic, using the village's approximate $2,900 road repair budget to purchase orange barrels and road signs if the department billed the village.

"We can't go out and put up detour signs," Bickley said. "That's ODOT's job."

Bickley also contacted state Rep. Matt Barrett (D) and state Sen. Susan Morano (D).

ODOT agreed to meet with the two public officials as well as Bickley and other village officials at a public meeting at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

The meeting will take place at the village's government office building, 15 S. Main St. and is open to the public.

"I'm hopeful we're going to able to find some middle ground for all of the parties," Barrett said.