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Farm equipment use of US 20 Bypass examined

ODOT and local, state officials look to address lingering issue

Norwalk (Thursday, March 01, 2012) – The challenge of moving farm equipment in and around the city of Norwalk is one step closer to being resolved as the Ohio Department of Transportation, local, and state officials work closely to address the issue.
For nearly 14 years, Huron County farmers have been faced with the challenge of moving farm machinery through the city of Norwalk in order to pick up agriculture supplies and chemicals at Sunrise Cooperative, located at 3130 N. Greenwich Milan Town Line Rd.  Farmers on the western side of Norwalk, once served by a Sunrise Cooperative location that subsequently closed in the late 1990s, must travel to the eastern location on surface streets through Norwalk. 
Since the closing of Sunrise’s western location, John Brooks of the Huron County Farm Bureau and the farming community near Norwalk has been lobbying ODOT to allow farm equipment to utilize the US 20 Bypass for travel to the eastern Sunrise Cooperative location.  However, current state law does not allow for slow moving vehicles on the US 20 Bypass due to its classification as a limited-access highway, and because of the danger posed by vehicle speed differences. 
Local and ODOT officials both cite safety as a primary concern for addressing this issue.  Local officials have expressed their concern with anhydrous ammonia tanks being transported through downtown Norwalk, exposing citizens to the risk of chemical spills or tank explosions.  ODOT engineers recognize and agree with these same concerns, but note that there is a greater potential for an anhydrous ammonia tank rupture or explosion if an accident occurs involving a commercial vehicle and farm equipment on the US 20 Bypass. The risk for a serious incident on the US 20 Bypass is compounded by vehicle speed differentials between automobiles/commercial trucks and farm equipment, or by driver inattention.    
Traffic count data has been examined for the city of Norwalk and along the US 20 Bypass from the southwestern Norwalk city limit to US 250.  While the city has several street sections with greater average daily traffic counts than on the US 20 Bypass, more commercial vehicle activity occurs on the Bypass.
The Ohio Department of Transportation recently presented local and state officials from Norwalk and Huron County with two potential alternatives to address the issue.  ODOT has proposed developing a special permitting process for farmers to utilize the US 20 Bypass, or changing the configuration of the US 20 Bypass to one lane in each direction with a dedicated “Agricultural Equipment Lane” for farm equipment.  Both alternatives will be presented for public comment at a public meeting scheduled for March 15, 2012 at Norwalk High School from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Local officials have commented that this is the greatest progress that has been made since their initial contact with ODOT nearly 14 years ago.









For more information contact: 
Christine Myers, District 3 Communications, at (419) 207-7182