Signs for Salem Truck Route put up

Collaborative effort will reduce traffic through downtown

During the dedication of the new Salem Truck Route, Mayor John Berlin and Jeanette M. Wierzbieki, executive director for the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association (OMEGA), go over a map of the route which is now designated by about 100 road signs installed by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Districts 4 and 11. The city paid for the signs and the route will alleviate truck traffic in the downtown Salem area. The Salem Truck Route was a collaborative effort of the city, ODOT, OMEGA and the Salem Sustainable Opportunity Development Center. (Salem News photo by Larry Shields)

SALEM — It took about two years of collaboration between city and state organizations to get the Salem Truck Route planned and put into effect.

A number of officials joined in the dedication of the route at the Salem Sustainable Opportunity Development Center on Thursday, and Mayor John Berlin lauded the routing which will decrease truck traffic through the city and eliminate a turn on Ellsworth Avenue to state Route 9.

Mike Mancuso, executive director of the SODC, said once trucking companies update the Google map information, the new route should cut eight to 10 minutes for truckers driving from Columbiana to the west side of Salem.

Berlin said that truckers, with the goal of staying on state Route 14, will realize they can bypass Salem and save time.

He said, “Nothing would have happened without the Ohio Department of Transportation.”

Both ODOT districts 4 and 11 played a role in placing the signs along the route.

“The city paid for them,” Berlin said, and Jeanette M. Wierzbieki, executive director for the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association (OMEGA), said, “ODOT used its own forces to install the signs.”

She noted there were possibly over 100 signs and “the labor cost to install the signs was paid for by ODOT and exceeded the cost of the signs themselves.”

OMEGA’s Regional Transportation Planning Organization served as the conduit in bringing about the truck route.

Mancuso said there is no place for truckers to fuel or eat, noting they could attract some facilities north of town with some business opportunities.

Berlin cited the collaboration of ODOT, OMEGA and the SODC in saying, “It’s really nice because we haven’t done anything that hurts truck traffic.”

Paul Mitchell from U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson’s office echoed the collaborative effort pointing out the strain on downtown traffic would be relieved and presented Mancuso with a certificate of recognition for what he does to bring business to the city.

Wierzbieki said there was a “spirit of collaboration” adding that as a new transportation route it was a “win for us to help local business and pedestrian access.” She said there was a lot engineering with sign placement.

Jason Wilson from the governor’s office of Appalachia said, “many times communities don’t have collaboration … congratulations to you … this is what it takes. Hats off, a standing ovation or whatever you want to call it … this is what it takes. Some will say it’s a small project but it’s a large step forward.”

Chris Varcolla, an ODOT District 11 engineer, said the truck route was “a low-cost countermeasure to re-direct traffic. It’s really good to see something so simple as signs to get the route designated.”

William Dawes, president of the Downtown Salem Partnership, noted the city is not unique with some 30 others he found with the same response to enhance pedestrian safety, air quality, and redirecting the transportation of hazardous materials out of town.

He said it is difficult to hold a conversation or take a picture downtown without trucks and “there’s no place for them to park. He added, “We’re solving a problem by positive action, and not changing the pattern.”

Audrey Null, executive director of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, said it’s been an issue “for quite some time.”

Years ago studies showed that 800 trucks a day drove through town, and now the number is over 1,000.

“It was really, really a big issue — truck jams, hitting light poles and they shook our building,” Null said.