BY D’ARCY PATRICK EGAN
The push is on by Ottawa County officials and District 2 of the the Ohio Department of Transportation to gain approval for a $10 million project on SE Catawba Road (State Route 53) to help to solve summertime traffic jams, road rage and vehicle accidents and provide smoother access to Vacationland for visitors.
Ottawa County Commissioner Mark Stahl, Ottawa County Engineer Ron Lijti Jr. and President Larry Fletcher of Lake Erie Shores and Islands have provided content for an ODOT video that covers the need for the project. The video has been used as part of a presentation to the ODOT Transportation Review Advisory Council, which must approve the funding.
“The most severe traffic problems are on the Route 53 Corridor from the State Route 2 Highway to East Harbor Road (State Route 163),” said Lijti. “There are many times in summer when that it seems almost impossible to make a left turn on Route 53 to get into or out of an establishment.”
Present ODOT plans call for the construction of a third lane to be used as a turn lane along the State Route 53 Corridor. No closure for construction would occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day when visitor traffic is high. Access to all of the businesses would be maintained throughout the construction.
Below is the video the country officials helped to create.
“The Route 53 Corridor is one of the most important arteries in Ottawa County,” said Lijti, “especially in regards to tourism and the industry tourism brings.”
Fletcher said more than 15,000 visitors visit the Ottawa County Tourism Center on Route 53 (SE Catawba Road) every year to discover all that Ottawa County has to offer.
“The North Coast is one of the most featured destinations of the Midwest, with 11 million visitors a year, supporting 14,000 tourism industry jobs and $270 million in taxes,” said Fletcher.
A majority of Ottawa County tourism destinations are accessed by the Route 53 Corridor. The intersection at State Route 163 heads to the north end of the Catawba Peninsula, where the Miller Ferry is the Gateway to Islands, the popular Put-in-Bay area and the Lake Erie Islands. Visitors turn west at the intersection to get to Port Clinton, and east to get to the Lakeside-Marblehead Peninsula and the Kelleys Island Ferry.
“The Route 53 Corridor project will move people, goods and services,” said Stahl, who is also chairman of the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments. “It is the best way to achieve success in improving safety and traffic flow on the Route 53 Corridor.”
Ottawa Count has a population of about 40,000, said Fletcher. In summer, visitors can easily triple that number on a weekday and be five times that number on a weekend.
ODOT is also studying the State Route 2/State Route 53 interchange in order to create one or possibly two roundabouts to help with traffic flow and to eliminate stopped traffic on State Route 2, a four-lane highway. ODOT has also proposed a roundabout for the intersection of East Harbor Road, North Shore Boulevard and Englebeck Road on the road to the Lakeside Marblehead Peninsula in Danbury Township.