It was another son of Appalachia,
Governor Ted Strickland, who, in 2009, faced down criticism from upstate when
he dedicated $150 million in federal stimulus funds to the
Nelsonville Bypass, to take traffic around the severely congested town of 6,000.
Yesterday, Governor Rhodes’s Route 33
vision was finally fulfilled.
But what does it mean to the residents
and business owners of Nelsonville? A number of businesses along Canal Street,
now the former
US 33, have
relied on the thousands of motorists crawling through town.
Susan Holmes owns the Nelsonville Quilt
Company. In nine years in business, her staff, space and sales have doubled.
ONN asked if she’s worried.
“I don’t think it will hurt. I hope not anyway. Check back in a year
and see if we’re still here,” Holmes replied with a chuckle.
Stuart Brooks, whose family owns the
Rocky Brands Company and the popular Rocky Shoes and Boots Outlet, probably
summed up the common feeling in Nelsonville yesterday, saying “I don’t think
anybody really knows.”
While the jury remains out in
Nelsonville, the finished highway is a big deal for several counties in
southeast Ohio and western West Virginia, as it brings the region closer to the much more vibrant economy of Columbus and central Ohio.
Among other things,
bypassing Nelsonville – along with the previous opening of the Lancaster Bypass
– means that a trip to Columbus from Pomeroy, Belpre or Parkersburg now takes
half an hour less than it did ten years ago.
It also means that going from Marietta to Columbus through Athens instead of Cambridge now takes
about the same time, with a lot less traffic than on I-70.