Road work

Take the long way home – may become motto for BG motorists

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Bowling Green residents had been warned that this would be a challenging year as they tried to traverse their way across town. In a couple weeks, the patience of motorists will be further tested. Bowling Green Public Works Director Brian Craft reminded City Council Monday evening that starting on April 15, the south half of the Interstate 75 bridge deck on East Wooster Street will be closing for the roundabout construction. So traffic will be able to go eastbound to do their shopping at Meijer, Craft said. But they will have to take the long way home. Construction of the I-75 and East Wooster Street interchange project has been progressing with minimal impacts to traffic thus far, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation. However, in order to construct the rest of the bridge and the roundabouts on either side of I-75, there are some upcoming impacts to East Wooster Street’s traffic flow. From April 15 through May 19, only eastbound Wooster Street will be permitted over I-75. Westbound Wooster Street traffic will be detoured using Dunbridge Road to Poe Road to Mercer Road. Beginning with that restriction and going through July, the ramp from Wooster Street to northbound I-75 will be closed. The detour will be Dunbridge Road to U.S. 6 to I-75. All other ramps will remain open. Immediately after the eastbound-only phase, through July, Wooster Street over I-75 will be closed to all traffic. All traffic will be detoured using Dunbridge Road to Poe Road to Mercer Road. This is to construct the roundabouts. Also on Monday, City Council passed an ordinance authorizing the city to enter contracts for design, engineering, right-of-way acquisition and construction of a roundabout at East Wooster Street and Campbell Hill Road. In other business, Mayor Dick Edwards talked about the natural gas break caused by construction work in the downtown last week. “It really caused us a great deal of stress,” especially since it followed a waterline break in the same area the day before. But Edwards praised the response by the city police, firefighters, public utilities and public works crews. “I was really impressed by the way everyone responded,” he said. Also at the meeting, Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell reported that all six water filters at the water treatment plant will be up and working in time for the harmful algae season. Council President Mike Aspacher talked about the investment Bowling Green has made in providing good water to customers. “It really results in a very quality water,” he said. “This sophisticated filtration process elevates us in the region.” In other business: The mayor reported that the state budget is expected to include a 9.1 percent increase in Local Government Funds in 2020, followed by a 1.8 percent increase in 2021. Craft announced the city is getting quite a few calls from residents about brush pickup, with 180 requests made on Monday. Citizens may call up through April 8 to have brush picked up.Craft said a new retaining wall and wider 5-foot sidewalks are being installed along City Park Lot 3 off South Church Street.Council learned a Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee meeting will be held June 3, at 6 p.m., to discuss a strategy for East Wooster Street.

Read More

$5 license tax goes unchallenged at public hearing

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Talk of raising taxes normally raises the dander of local taxpayers. But when the Wood County Commissioners held a public hearing Thursday morning on a proposed $5 license tax, no one showed up to complain. The commissioners took that as a sign that local residents realize the poor condition of county roads and bridges. The public will have one more chance to voice opinions during the second public hearing on the tax set for May 17, at 10 a.m., in the county commissioners’ hearing room. The new tax was requested by Wood County Engineer John Musteric, who is tired of just spinning his wheels on endless road and bridge repairs. The $5 permissive vehicle license tax will be used only for road and bridge expenses, Musteric said. “Every little bit helps,” he said on Thursday. According to local county officials, state and federal government have no appetite for raising gas taxes themselves. And the revenue brought in by gas taxes isn’t growing to meet expenses, since more fuel-efficient cars mean less gas is needed to traverse the state. But the state has given local governments the option of tacking on the new tax. “They recognized the stagnant funding of local transportation systems and that counties were struggling to keep up with the need for bridge replacements and road repair,” Musteric said. The proposed $5 increase is projected to bring in an additional $632,660 annually for road and bridge repairs. Musteric pledged to the commissioners that the additional funds would be used only on capital expenses, not on personnel or operating costs. Currently the state registration fee is $34.50, and the local permissive fees are between $15 and $20, depending on the community. The federal gas tax of 18.4 cents has not been increased since 1993, and the state gas tax of 28 cents has not been increased since 2005. “Our revenues have been stagnant,” Musteric said. Meanwhile, the cost of building and maintaining roads has continued to grow. Since the last state gas tax increase, the cost of asphalt has jumped 58 percent, steel has increased 35 percent, concrete has gone up 10 percent, and road paint has jumped 38 percent. “So we have to do something,” Musteric said Thursday. To deal with stagnant or declining revenue plus rising costs, some counties have enacted county road and bridge levies. Wood County has not. Some counties have dedicated a portion of their sales tax revenue for roads and bridges. Wood County has not. According to Musteric, the county engineer’s office has tried to do more with less. The office has reduced the number of employees from 52 in 2006 to 44 in 2018. He is also trying to turn over some of the smaller roads to township maintenance, and transfer bridges inside municipalities to their care. The operating budget for the engineer’s office has barely budged since 2006 when it was $7.6 million, to 2017 when it was $7.75 million. Musteric said the county is in an impossible position of catching up on road and bridge repairs. Following are some statistics about county bridges: County owns and maintains 441 bridges. Average age of the bridges is 41 years old. Bridges 50 years old or more: 149. Bridges 75 years old or more: 68. Bridges 100 years old or more: 21. Bridges in poor or worse shape: 52. Oldest bridge in county: 133 years old. Bridge repairs and replacements don’t come cheap. The average bridge replacement costs $400,000. The cost to replace all the county’s bridges in poor or worse condition is estimated at…


Rumor about farm equipment fees spreads like weeds

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the weather warms and farmers start itching to get out in their fields, the Wood County Commissioners want to make one point perfectly clear – there will be no blanket fee for farm equipment on county roads. During discussions about an overweight truck program for the county, an initial annual blanket fee of $100 per vehicles was considered. However, the commissioners quickly nixed those plans, and removed any blanket fee for farm equipment from the overweight permit plan. While the word about the initial farm fee proposal spread like weeds in a soybean field, the word about the fee removal seems to have missed some people, Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said Thursday. In fact, the rumors worsened, with some farmers now believing they will have to pay $100 each time their vehicles travel county roads. The commissioners have heard that many farmers plan to show up to protest the non-existent fees at the next town meeting held by the commissioners on Monday at 5:45 p.m., in the Center Township Building. The goal of the Overweight Vehicle Permit program is to protect county roads and bridges from damage.  Overweight vehicles that travel state routes are required to obtain a permit from the Ohio Department of Transportation.  These same overweight vehicles travel state routes legally, then exit onto county and township roads with no permits or regard for the capacity of the roads or bridges. The only permit fee that could affect farmers is for vehicles that exceed 87,000 pounds – most likely semi-trucks hauling grain. “This is to protect our assets,” Wood County Engineer John Musteric said of the overweight permit program recently during a meeting with the county commissioners. “We’re spending a lot of money to improve these roads and bridges.” While many of the proposed county fees mirror amounts charged by the Ohio Department of Transportation for overweight traffic, the initial farm fees do not. The commissioners agreed that the blanket farm fees be discarded. “You don’t want to be the farm police,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said during that meeting. Grand Rapids area farmer Dan Potter said there would not be a meeting room big enough for all the unhappy farmers if the county enacted blanket fees. He explained that ODOT exempts all farm equipment driving down the road from overweight fees. No farm equipment weighs more than the maximum allowable weight of 80,000 pounds, Potter said However, some semi-loads of grain may be overweight. But there is no way for farmers to determine the weight of the loads prior to them being weighed at the grain elevator. “We know that coming out of the field it’s impossible to tell,” said Shane Johnson, of the county engineer’s office. Commissioner Craig LaHote suggested that the new overweight load program information be given to local grain elevators, so they can inform the farmers who bring in heavy loads. The goal of the program is to redirect heavy traffic away from roads and bridges that are not able to handle the loads. “This is really nothing new,” Musteric said. “All we’re trying to do is protect our assets. We know people are overloaded and they’re going across our load-limited bridges. We’re concerned, and the commissioners should be, too. It’s your assets.” No permits will be required of traffic that is less than 80,000 pounds. But even traffic under the limit should be cautious about crossing some of the bridges in the county, Musteric said. Some have load limits far under 80,000 pounds, like one on Bays Road that has a…


Bike sharrows fall short after peddled to last 7 years

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Some of the bicycle graphics on Bowling Green streets look more like unicycles after just one winter of wear and tear. Last year, in an effort to make streets more bicycle friendly, the city took the step of having sharrow graphics placed on Conneaut Avenue and Fairview Avenue. The symbols serve as a reminder that under the Ohio Revised Code, a bicycle on the roadway has the same rights as a vehicle. City officials decided to go with the more expensive sharrow option of thermo-plastic graphics which cost about $300 a piece. Painted sharrows would have been much less expensive, at $30 to $40 each, but would not last as long, the city was advised. So the city was counting on the sharrows lasting longer than paint on the pavement, said Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett. “It would if it weren’t for the snowplows,” Fawcett said last week. Director of Public Works Brian Craft said he contacted the manufacturer about replacing or repairing the sharrows. “It is our expectation that they will work with their subcontractor to get them corrected, and at no cost to the city,” Craft said. The Shelly Paving Co. had subcontracted the pavement markings to Zimmerman Paint Co. There were 69 sharrows applied to Fairview and Conneaut avenues last year. At $300 a piece, that added up to $20,700. Most of the sharrows have peeled off areas. “About 75 percent are in varying degrees of being peeled up,” Craft said. It was suggested to Craft that the sharrows would not have been scalped off the pavement if the city’s snowplows weren’t run so close to the roadway. But Craft informed the company that the snowplow blades have to run along the pavement in order to clear snow from the streets. The manufacturer estimated the sharrows would last about seven years, “under normal traffic.” Snowplow traffic is normal in Bowling Green, Craft said. “Anytime you put something down on the road, you know it’s going to take a beating,” Craft said. The city has had a different experience with the thermo-plastic markings on streets for school zones and crosswalks. “The snowplows didn’t affect them the same way as the sharrows,” Fawcett said. Both Craft and Fawcett surmised the sharrows are more susceptible to scalping since the graphics are thinner than the crosswalk markings. “We were hoping we wouldn’t have to replace them that often,” Fawcett said. “It’s unfortunate. It’s one of those things we’ll just have to work through.” The sharrows are intended to show where on the road bicyclists are safest, which is in the lane and not along the curb. Most items that are hazardous to bicyclists can be found along the curb. As a result, if a bicyclist were to ride in that location on the road, they would be moving in and out of traffic. State legislation enacted last year requires motorists to pass a bicyclist with at least 3 feet distance.


Overweight trucks weigh heavy on minds of county officials

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County roads took a beating from the Rover pipeline construction across the southern part of the county. So Wood County Engineer John Musteric wants to get an overweight truck program in place before more pipeline construction traffic rumbles over county roads and bridges. But while the program will keep an eye on pipeline transports, it was decided that it won’t target farm traffic. The Wood County Commissioners on Tuesday reviewed the proposed fees for an overweight truck program – with the ultimate goal of saving county roads and bridges from unnecessary wear and tear. “This is to protect our assets,” Musteric said. “We’re spending a lot of money to improve these roads and bridges.” At the same time, the engineer’s office is aware of many overweight loads using county roads and bridges. “We hope to God a catastrophe doesn’t happen,” with older bridges being weakened with every heavy load, Musteric said. The county has already posted signs notifying Nexus pipeline construction traffic of the route they are to take north of Bowling Green. The permit program will require the pipeline company to purchase permits for all of its trucks, and will allow the county to issue fines if the trucks stray from the assigned route that can better handle the heavy loads, Musteric said. “They better stay on those routes. They’ve been warned,” Musteric said. “If you get off those routes, you will pay.” The county learned a hard lesson from the Rover pipeline construction in the southern part of the county, Musteric said at a previous meeting. “Rover tore the heck out of the roads,” he said. Though the proposed overweight truck program has been unpopular with some, there are companies ready to pay for their permits, said Shane Johnson, of the county engineer’s office. For Nexus pipeline, the program will require more than 85 permits at a proposed $150 each. “They haven’t batted an eye,” Johnson said. But local farmers don’t feel the same. The initial proposal by the county engineer’s office called for an annual blanket permit for farm equipment of $100 each year. While all the other fees mirror amounts charged by the Ohio Department of Transportation for overweight traffic, the farm fees do not. The commissioners asked that the blanket farm fees be discarded. “You don’t want to be the farm police,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said. Grand Rapids area farmer Dan Potter said there would not be a meeting room big enough for all the unhappy farmers if the county enacted blanket fees. He explained that ODOT exempts all farm equipment driving down the road from overweight fees. No farm equipment weighs more than the maximum allowable weight of 80,000 pounds, Potter said However, some semi-loads of grain may be overweight. But there is no way for farmers to determine the weight of the loads. “We know that coming out of the field it’s impossible to tell,” Johnson said. But Musteric said many farmers can tell if their tractors or trucks are struggling under a heavy load. “They know when it’s overweight,” Musteric said. “I’ve got to believe they know when it’s overweight.” Commissioner Craig LaHote suggested that the new overweight load program information be given to local grain elevators, so they can inform the farmers who bring in heavy loads. The goal of the program is to redirect heavy traffic away from roads and bridges that are not able to handle the loads. “This is really nothing new,” Musteric said. “All we’re trying to do is protect our assets. We know people are…


County steers toward $5 license fee for roads, bridges

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County Engineer John Musteric is tired of just spinning his wheels on endless road and bridge repairs. So on Thursday, he asked the Wood County Commissioners to consider tacking on another $5 permissive license plate fee to raise money for road and bridge maintenance. The commissioners seemed open to the proposal. “He’s done his homework,” Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said. “Our roads and bridges do need some attention.” The commissioners will be required to hold two public hearings before they make a decision on the permissive license fee. But Commissioner Craig LaHote said he believes most local residents already know the county’s infrastructure needs help. “People realize the roads are in bad shape,” he said. Musteric and the commissioners looked at a map of county roads – with several of the routes colored red or orange, indicating serious or poor road conditions. “We’re never catching up,” Musteric told the commissioners. “We do all these studies of where we should put our money. You try to spend your money where the most people will benefit from it.” The county engineer feels his office is in a Catch-22 situation. What’s the use of spending money to fix bridges, he said, “if you’ve got crappy roads going to them?” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said state and federal government have “no appetite” for raising gas taxes themselves. And the revenue brought in by gas taxes isn’t growing to meet expenses, since more fuel-efficient cars mean less gas is needed to traverse the state. “It makes the revenue generated remain flat,” Kalmar said. The proposed $5 increase is projected to bring in an additional $632,660 annually for road and bridge repairs. Musteric pledged to the commissioners that the additional funds would be used only on capital expenses, not on personnel or operating costs. Currently the state registration fee is $34.50, and the local permissive fees are between $15 and $20, depending on the community. The Ohio General Assembly has authorized the additional $5 fee. “They recognized the stagnant funding of local transportation systems and that counties were struggling to keep up with the need for bridge replacements and road repair,” Musteric said. The federal gas tax has not been increased since 1993, and the state gas tax has not been increased since 2005. Ohio gas tax is currently 28 cents, and the federal gas tax is 18.4 cents. The last county $5 permissive fee was enacted in 1990. Meanwhile, the cost of building and maintaining roads has continued to grow. Since the last state gas tax increase, the cost of asphalt has jumped 58 percent, steel has increased 35 percent, concrete has gone up 10 percent, and road paint has jumped 38 percent. To deal with stagnant or declining revenue and rising costs, some counties have enacted county road and bridge levies. Wood County has not. Some counties have dedicated a portion of their sales tax revenue for roads and bridges. Wood County has not. “You can see with all of the costs, we’re behind the 8-ball,” Musteric said. According to Musteric, the county engineer’s office has tried to do more with less. The office has reduced the number of employees from 52 in 2006 to 44 in 2018. He is also trying to turn over some of the smaller roads to township maintenance, and transfer bridges inside municipalities to their care. “I’m always looking at ways to cut costs and get additional money. I really think we should do this,” he said to the commissioners about the $5 license fee. Musteric said the county is…


Portable scales may be used to deter overweight trucks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County officials tired of roads being beat up by overweight trucks may start using portable scales to snag those heavy loads. Wood County Engineer John Musteric and Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn made a pitch to the county commissioners Thursday morning about setting up an overweight vehicle permit program using scales that can easily be transported throughout the county. The goal isn’t to make money off of permits and fines, Musteric said, but rather to discourage heavy trucks from breaking up county roads. Overweight truck traffic is increasing on interstates, so it’s only natural that to reach their destinations, those trucks have to use smaller county and township roads. While most trucking companies get permits with ODOT for overweight loads, they often neglect to get permits at the local level, Musteric said. Last year, Ohio issued 367,332 permits for overweight trucks. When detailing their routes, those trucking companies identified 46,034 loads that traveled through Wood County. Yet only 57 permits were issues for Wood County, Musteric said. The legal limit on Ohio roads is 80,000 pounds. Some of the heavy trucks weigh as much as 165,000 pounds. “Some of those people aren’t going to be happy,” Wasylyshyn said. Permits can be purchased per truck, per route traveled. “If they get off that route, and they get nailed, they pay hefty fines,” Musteric said. But Musteric stressed the goal isn’t to make money, but to control which roads overweight trucks travel. “Believe me, this is not a money grab for us,” he told the commissioners. The county’s roads and bridges are in “dire straits” and suffer from heavy loads. So part of the permitting program will be educational – with efforts made to direct overweight traffic to more suitable routes. The sheriff and engineer suggested that Wood County use portable scales as part of that educational process. “ODOT has three portable scales just waiting to be used, at no cost,” Musteric said. Construction of the Rover pipeline across southern Wood County has taught the engineer’s office a painful lesson, Musteric said. “Rover tore the heck out of the roads,” the engineer said. Signs have already been posted to keep Nexus pipeline construction trucks on roads that are better able to handle the heavy loads. “They better stay on those routes. They’ve been warned,” Musteric said. “If you get off those routes, you will pay.” A sheriff’s deputy could be trained to use the scales, which can handle trucks with up to 15 axles. The sheriff’s office gets complaints about trucks suspected of carrying heavy loads. A dump truck heaped high with stone is likely too heavy for local roads, Wasylyshyn said. “You can pretty much guarantee that truck is overweight,” he said. But without scales, his deputies can’t prove the truck is in violation. “I do get a lot of complaints about overweight trucks,” Wasylyshyn said. “But there’s very little I can do.” The sheriff also has safety concerns, since trucks designed to handle 80,000 pounds, but carrying 160,000 pounds, cannot stop or make turns as expected. Trucks under the 80,000 pound weight limit will not need to buy permits. And there is a 7.5 percent leeway allowed for farm trucks. “The whole idea is to educate our drivers,” Wasylyshyn said. “It’s not like we’re out looking to write tickets.” “Our goal is to get compliance,” he said. “We want to direct them off the 100-year-old bridge.” The average overweight load permit is $150. The fines for not having a permit vary, but can be as high as $1,000. Wood County will…