Local leaders have received an agreement from the Ohio Department of Transportation to provide a grant for a study to improve SR 53 if the city and county can provide matching funds.
Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz, Seneca County Commissioner Fred Zoeller and members of North Central Ohio Regional Council of Governments met with state officials including ODOT Director Jerry Wray, Rep. Jeff McClain, R-Upper Sandusky, Rep. Rex Damschroder, R-Fremont, and Sen. Dave Burke, R-Marysville, to discuss improving roads in the county.
"The most important part of today is we have commitment from ODOT to conduct a study on 53, if we can " Zoeller said.
Montz said Wray was very excited about the project and offered ideas and advice on ways to raise local funds to match a grant from the state.
"We have a great opportunity if we can put up some local funding," Montz said.
The study will look at the "grand plan" for SR 53, which could include making the road a super two-lane highway and create a loop road bypass in different stages, Zoeller said. It will examine what improvements are needed to be make the road safe and efficient, he said.
Montz said the study will more than likely lead to construction and improvements to the highway.
"The state won't put up money and expect us to put up money, if they don't think any work needs to be done," he said.
Zoeller said ODOT's support was the "missing piece" the county needed, and hopes it will change the minds of opponents of his proposed $5 permissive tax on registered vehicles.
"In order for ODOT to care, they want to see that we care," Montz said. "If we're willing to make a small investment, they're willing to make a large investment."
Montz said at the moment it is unclear how much the city and county will have to raise for the study grant, but ODOT will provide the facts and figures for the study soon.
He said Burke and Damschroder also supported the project to improve the highway. Montz said Damschroder is the chair of the Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, and Burke is "fired up" about the idea.
"Burke is extremely excited about this," Zoeller said.
Tiffin and Seneca County have formed a coalition with other governments including Sandusky, Wyandot and Ottawa counties, which NCORcog has helped facilitate, said NCORcog Director John Davoli.
Montz said he hopes other members of the coalition will support this project as well.
"The meeting exceeded what I thought would happen today," Zoeller said.
While in Columbus, Zoeller, Montz and Davoli also lobbied for Local Government Innovation Fund projects, including a study on a shared court facility and a compressed natural gas study.
"We wanted to be that voice in Columbus that we lacked for a while," Montz said.