Morgan County has a new state road, thanks to some creative cooperation between the county, Morgan Township and Ohio Department of Transportation District 10.
The half-mile Monastery Road, Morgan Township Road 209, officially became Ohio 607 last week after a decade of planning and the expenditure of a total $4.8 million to realign the roadway.
"We're happy the road is better now, and it will save us at least $20,000 a year in road maintenance, but there was a lot of money spent on this project," said Darel Kuntz, a Morgan Township trustee for the last 16 years.
Plans for improvements to the township road began in 2003 when $3.3 million in state funding was set aside for the project, but ODOT did not receive the earmarked monies until 2005 when surveying and preliminary engineering began.
From 2007 to 2009 ODOT worked with local stakeholders to begin planning and design for the road upgrade, according to Dave Rose, ODOT information officer.
"By that time most of the earmarked money had been spent on preliminary engineering and planning," Rose explained. "Local officials could not afford to complete the upgrade of the township road, and ODOT is barred from spending state money on local roads."
But two years later ODOT District 10 Deputy Director Steve Williams devised a plan to finish the project-by upgrading the township road into a state route.
"We had no money for the project, so we were asked to give the road up," Kuntz said.
He noted that a U.S. Army National Guard Hawk Missile post used the township road regularly, and hauling heavy equipment over the road was wearing it down.
"So we were glad to give it up and let the state take care of it," Kuntz added. "They'll also plow and salt the road during the winter months."
He also noted that making the township road into a state highway has the potential for some economic benefit to the community as the new Ohio 607 provides access to an industrial park developed by the Morgan County Community Involvement Corporation and other areas with possibilities for business growth.
Work on the road improvement began in 2011. The contract price was nearly $1.5 million.
"After nearly 10 years in the making, I'm pleased that Morgan County residents now have an efficient road to travel," Williams said, announcing the township road upgrade last week.
Signs designating the road as Ohio 607 were erected on July 25.