BHJ “clears the road” to improve safety, boost economy in Amsterdam
A small Ohio town is getting a big road improvement, taking the twist out of their piece of Ohio Route 43.
The Village of Amsterdam, with a population of about 500, has been bending its trucks and traffic around a very tight reverse curve, called an “S-turn,” on SR 43 for decades.
“I’m 69 years old and I know it’s been that long,” said Gary Pepperling, Mayor of Amsterdam. “It’s worse now because trucks are bigger and truck traffic has increased, so the danger has increased.”
Pepperling said the village felt it was stuck with the situation until Mike Paprocki, executive director of the Brooke Hancock Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission, got interested.
“Nothing ever came to fruition until I talked to Mike,” Pepperling said. “Mike realized the safety issues of the turn. He took a liking to Amsterdam and helped move this project along. He took all the time to take care of this little village.”
For BHJ, the project started with traffic counts and site visits by Paprocki and BHJ Transportation Study Director David Snelting.
“Once we visited the project area we knew we had to do something,” Paprocki said. He also identified the project as a good fit for the federal highway money BHJ receives as the as the region’s metropolitan planning organization.
“This project hits several goals adopted by our Policy Board,” Paprocki said. “It supports our economic vitality with the movement of goods and straightening the S-curve improves safety on a major traffic corridor that connects our communities to the Canton-Akron area.”
Snelting said that an S-turn, which winds one way and then another, like the letter “S,” can result from survey offsets. In those cases, one square piece of property stacks against another in a way that doesn’t line up straight, so the resulting road weaves along property lines.
“The turns in Amsterdam are so tight that two trucks headed in opposite directions cannot physically pass,” Snelting said. “Truckers are aware of the problem. When we were doing site visits, we actually saw trucks come to a stop ahead of the curve and communicate by radio to pass one at a time.”
State Route 43, which runs from Steubenville to Cleveland, is a route used by oil and gas water trucks and WalMart trucks headed to the distribution center in Wintersville. When the road was scheduled for resurfacing, BHJ was contacted by the Ohio Division of Transportation to look into the traffic safety issues.
BHJ found that counted just over 2,200 vehicles traveling on both the northbound and southbound lanes through Amsterdam daily. Trucks made up 19% of the traffic headed north and 17.5% of southbound traffic.
“That’s extremely high,” Snelting explained. “A normal percentage on a state road would be around 5%.”
Because of the issues found by the BHJ study, the organization’s Transportation Study Policy Committee voted to spend $460,000 of its federal dollars to remove the dangerous turn. ODOT used its funding for the design, right-of-way purchase and construction inspection, totaling more than $360,000.
The final piece of the financial puzzle, a 20% match, fell on the village itself. In April, Pepperling learned that Amsterdam had been awarded a $110,000 grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission to complete the funding needed for the project.
Pepperling said Jeanette Wierzbicki of the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association was instrumental in preparing the application for their grant.
With the funding in place, the project is underway. Right-of-way issues are expected to be wrapped up by end of October, with the project going out to bid in early 2019.
Pepperling said he and the residents of his town are very appreciative of the work done by BHJ and OMEGA and are looking forward to this improvement, which he believes will change the town.
“Safety wise it’s going to be tremendous,” he added. “The turn is blind and it has been my worse fear in my 13 years as Mayor that someone was going to get killed.”