Carroll County Commissioners are in a position to shape the future of Carroll County and northeast Ohio.

During the next few weeks and months, they must decide if they will join with officials from Stark and Columbiana counties to form a regional group focused on constructing an alternate US 30 from Trump Rd. to Route 44 in East Canton and on to Route 11 near Lisbon along with constructing a connector route from Carrollton to US. 30.

The idea is to improve US 30 so travelers and regional businesses have a four-lane, divided, limited access highway across Ohio with connections to Pittsburgh through Route 11 and Route 7 and then Route 22. In essence, the highway would open this part of the state to east and west travelers, businesses and industry and spur economic development and tourism, an idea that has been on the table for many, many years.

For more than 50 years, local officials have been lobbying for improvements to US 30 and a better, safer route for Carroll County residents to travel to Canton. In the past, plans have always relied on the Ohio Department of Transportation to foot the bill for the entire project.

This time it’s different.

Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, authored legislation that allows multiple counties to jointly undertake road improvement projects under what is known as a Regional Transportation Improvement Projects (RTIP) and provides funding mechanisms. Schuring, who is also spearheading the organization of the Carroll Columbiana Stark RTIP, said there is a menu of options counties can utilize to channel funds to pay for debt service on bonds issued for the construction. The most commonly used in Ohio is Tax Increment Financing, or TIF. School districts across the state commonly use this form of funding.

This funding mechanism allows counties to share the cost and partner with ODOT in a cost share program not available with previous efforts to improve US 30 and build a connector route from Carrollton to US 30.

Development in Carroll County is gravitating north along SR 43 and county commissioners are undertaking a project to provide water and sewer from Malvern to Arrow Rd. along the SR 43 corridor to sustain and expand that growth.

Although Carroll County is blessed to have two stat care facilities in Carrollton, it still lacks quick access to Canton area hospitals in the case of emergencies. The community of does not have sufficient population to support a hospital so it is important to provide the safest and fastest route to Canton for emergency personnel transporting patients.

It’s too early in the process to talk about routes for the connector from Carrollton to US 30.The first step is to sign a cooperative agreement and agree to form the RTIP and explore the possibilities… at no cost.

If commissioners decide the plan will not work for Carroll County, they have the option to withdraw and are only responsible for costs incurred by the RTIP in the county.

The US 30 project and a connector route to Carrollton have been on dead center for too many years. The RTIP’s funding mechanism offers an opportunity to move the project forward, open up Carroll County for development and tourism that will provide jobs for residents and cut down down on the number of traffic accidents that occur along the current heavily traveled route.

We encourage commissioners to take that first step and sign the cooperative agreement.

Without taking the first step, future steps are not possible and we remain an isolated county accessible only by two-lane highways. By taking the first step, the ability to explore the future opens up, a future we believe is bright.