NELSONVILLE (AP) -- Once feared, a new bypass coming for Route 33 is now seen as a likely help for downtown Nelsonville in southeast Ohio.
People in the city of nearly 5,400 people expect the four-lane, 8.5-mile bypass to spur development and encourage visits to the downtown by relieving today's heavy congestion, traffic choke points and crash problems. About 1.5 miles of the highway's westbound lanes on Nelsonville's western edge will open this Wednesday. The same segment's eastbound lanes will open later this fall.
The full project is expected to be open in September 2013.
The Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/RUuIsg) reports that another help to traffic and the downtown is expected from a roundabout being built. And it's also expected to serve as an attractive visual "gateway" that lets drivers know they are entering downtown Nelsonville. Local leaders plan to add decorative touches to the roundabout when construction is completed.
When construction preparations began several years ago, some people worried that carrying traffic around the city would dry up downtown visits and business.
Mike Tink, who sells late-model used cars and pickup trucks, said he has talked to business owners in Lancaster, Ohio, who say their early fears of the Lancaster Route 33 bypass were misplaced. Instead, the bypass has brought new businesses and shopping.
He thinks he'll get more customers when congestion is eased. There can be delays of up to half an hour to get through the city when people are on their way to Ohio University for special events. The bypass will allow drivers to keep going around Nelsonville at 65 mph.
Nelsonville's Public Square has shops with Appalachian art, an opera house and other attractions for the historic district that could benefit from easier travel in and out of Nelsonville.
The Ohio Department of Transportation found that more than 19,000 vehicles, about 15 percent of them trucks, traveled the two-lane Route 33 on a daily average in 2010.
Resident Mike Tackett will be glad to see that number of vehicles coming through town reduced.
"I sure won't miss the traffic," Tackett said. "It's bumper to bumper."