Calcutta Trustees Vote to Complete ‘Road to Nowhere’

CALCUTTA, Ohio – Sometimes called “the road to nowhere,” Columbia Drive, in the heart of the Calcutta business strip, is finally being earmarked for completion.

With a 2-0 vote Monday, St. Clair Township Trustees adopted an agreement with the Ohio Public Works Commission that will provide a $1,860,729 interest-free loan for construction of the second half of Columbia Drive. Trustee Chairman Jim Sabatini was absent.

The first part of the road was partially finished a decade ago.

Columbia Drive is part of the connector road between state Route 170, Challenger Drive and McGuffey Drive, a project started in 2000 by the township’s Blue Ribbon Committee.

Construction of the 0.14 mile of existing roadway was funded with a grant through the Ohio Department of Development, which was obtained by the county development department.

The engineer’s estimate for that project was $746,609.05 and included the first portion of Columbia Drive as well as a new intersection at state Route 170. The construction included traffic signal modifications, improvements to Challenger Drive, water main and gravity sewer along the entire length of the project, drainage facilities, wetlands mitigation and basin construction.

Ever since the project’s conclusion, township officials have tried to obtain grant funding to complete Columbia Drive. Fiscal officer Deb Dawson explained it is difficult to obtain such funding since it’s based on job creation, and assuring job creation is difficult without cooperation of neighboring property owners.

The entire length of Columbia Drive is bordered by about 40 acres of vacant land available for development. The owner of the property has not taken steps to develop it at this point.

In October 2021, Dawson applied to the Ohio Public Works Commission for a 30-year interest-free loan to complete construction of Columbia Drive, submitting a project cost of $2,360,729.

The township committed to paying $250,000 of the total cost from its TIF District, which is generated from new business construction, with the Columbiana County commissioners agreeing to put up $250,000 in American Rescue funds as a match, decreasing the project total to the loan amount.

“The application process was competitive, but the township prevailed and was awarded the interest-free loan,” Dawson said. 

The loan will be repaid over a 30-year period.

In voting for the loan agreement, Trustee Jordan Williams said he remembered when the first portion of Columbia Drive was constructed and said he is excited what might take place in the township once construction of the remaining portion is completed.

Trustee Bob Swickard said the project was undertaken initially to help “splinter” traffic because congested traffic along state Route 170 makes drivers leave the area instead of frequenting businesses.

The engineering costs of completing the roadway were paid during the original project, according to Swickard, who said he has not spoken with county engineer Bert Dawson regarding a time frame for start-up or completion of the project.

Swickard said it is possible bids might be let during the winter.

Pictured at top: Columbia Drive in Calcutta, “the road to nowhere.”

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.