UPDATE 10/1/13 @ 10:40 p.m.
NELSONVILLE, Ohio (WSAZ) -- After decades of planning and more than four years of construction, the $160 million, 8.5-mile U.S. Route 33 Nelsonville Bypass opened Tuesday.
Joined by ODOT Director Jerry Wray, community leaders, businesses and state and local officials attended the ceremonial ribbon cutting signifying the opening of the final upgrade to U.S. 33 and southeast Ohio’s major transportation corridor.
“Today, we keep yet another promise to the people of Southeastern Ohio as we cut the ribbon on the final phase of the Nelsonville Bypass, said Director Wray.
Until Tuesday, U.S. 33 through Nelsonville – where it narrowed from a four lane highway to a two lane local road – was heavily congested, with a history of serious injury crashes.
As the largest transportation project ever constructed in southeast Ohio, the Nelsonville Bypass is the last piece in creating a limited-access corridor between Columbus, Ohio, and Charleston, W.Va.
Since the 1980s, more than $330 million has been spent to upgrade the U.S. 33 Corridor. The new four lane highway travels through Athens and Hocking County and consists of two interchanges into historic Nelsonville, Ohio.
“The completion of this historical project improves safety for motorists and enhances the flow of commerce to and from southeast Ohio, said ODOT District 10 Deputy Director Steve Williams.
The new section of U.S. Route 33 around the city of Nelsonville was scheduled to open hours after a Tuesday morning ceremony.
Route 33 is heavily used by motorists traveling between Columbus and southeast Ohio and those headed to Ohio University in Athens from points all over the state.
The bypass is expected to relieve traffic jams on the main two-lane road through Nelsonville.
The bypass had been discussed for decades, and construction on the $175 million project started in 2007.
It passes through Wayne National Forest. The state spent more than $10 million just on making sure wildlife in the area and the environment were protected.