Photo Caption: Costruction on the U.S. Rt. 33 bypass.
A month and a week from now, drivers along U.S. Rt. 33 will be able to use the full length of the long-awaited Nelsonville bypass.
Ohio Department of Transportation spokesperson David Rose confirmed Friday that Oct. 1 has been set as the opening date for the bypass highway that will allow motorists to skip driving through the city of Nelsonville.
Officials had previously predicted an early opening this summer, but heavy rainfall throughout July pushed it back into the fall closer to its originally scheduled completion date.
Eight miles on the northwestern side of the bypass opened to traffic last fall, so the Oct. 1 opening will allow motorists to travel the remainder of the bypass.
The $138 million project was announced in 2009 by then-governor Ted Strickland with funds coming from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the stimulus package.
The project represented Ohio's largest single investment of stimulus monies, and Strickland said at the time that were it not for those funds the project would not have been done for at least another five years.
He touted the new roadway as an "Appalachian gateway" for greater economic opportunity and accessibility for this region.
A decade ago, those traveling U.S. Rt. 33 between Athens and Columbus had to drive through both the city of Nelsonville and the city of Lancaster, a trip that typically took at least an hour and a half. The Lancaster bypass fully opened in 2005, shaving some time off the trip. The Nelsonville bypass is expected to shave off even more and push it closer toward one hour.
Rose said that the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 1, a ribbon cutting ceremony will be held and afterward the bypass will open to traffic.
"We are finalizing speakers. We're finalizing other stuff with the community to make this a nice event," he said, adding that a specific time hasn't been set yet but is expected to be decided early this week.
Prior to then, on Sept. 28, a run/walk/bike event will be held for community members on the new bypass, sponsored by Doctors Hospital of Nelsonville and the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations as well as a number of other Nelsonville businesses and entities.
This event will start at 9 a.m. It is free from children 10 years and under, while the pre-registration for others is $30 and the day-of-registration price is $40. A t-shirt is included for those pre-registering.
The 5K run/walk/bike will include awards for the top three male and female winners overall as well as in eight separate age brackets.
Three courses are also being offered: Short, medium and long. The long course is 12 miles round-trip; medium is 9.5 miles; and short is 5 miles.
Registration that day is slated to take place between 7:30 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. and participants will be bused from the public square in Nelsonville to the appropriate place on the bypass.
More information and registration forms can be found by visiting www.nelsonvillebypassopening.com.