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NEWS RELEASE

 Ohio Department of Transportation  Internet News Release
August 10, 2004

ODOT NARROWS CONCEPTS FOR FIXING SPLIT

(COLUMBUS) The Ohio Department of Transportation is presenting recommendations today that will  narrow the field of potential solutions for fixing the Interstate 70/71 downtown split. ODOT will focus its analysis on three alternatives that either rebuild the entire corridor or untangle and upgrade portions of the existing freeway. 

 Officials say its possible a final solution could mix and match elements from all three. 

 The alternatives were identified during a series of public and community meetings held over the past two years.  Of the eight alternatives under review, ODOT analyzed and compared the alternatives based on safety, accessibility and mobility, cost, environmental and community factors.

 Were advancing these alternatives because they have the greatest potential to address all of these goals, said Jack Marchbanks, ODOT District 6 deputy director.  Were seeking a solution that not only solves the congestion and accident problem, but one that can capture the broadest level of community support.

ODOT considers the downtown split the most congested, high-crash freeway location in the state.  Designed in the 50s and built in the 60s to serve 1980s traffic, today it carries about 175,000 vehicles a day or about 50,000 more than it was designed to handle.  As a result, the highway experiences about two crashes daily.

 To address these problems, ODOT is advancing the following alternatives for further study:

1) One-way Pair, Collector/Distributor (CD) Build one-way CD roads parallel to both sides of the freeway.  CD roads collect traffic from existing downtown areas to distribute onto the highway.  Likewise, they collect and distribute highway traffic onto downtown city streets.  This alternative would also involve rebuilding freeway ramps, interchanges and lanes to eliminate excessive weaving and add through lanes to accommodate growth.

2) Two-way, Collector/Distributor Road Using Local Street System Same alternative as above, however the roads would carry two-way traffic and run north of I-70 along Fulton and west of I-71 along Lester.

3) Urbanized Freeway System Improve the interchanges at State Route 315 and I-71, untangle and add lanes to the freeway, improve the existing ramps, but leave the highway and ramp system unchanged.  The most unsafe ramps could be consolidated or closed.

 These concepts will be analyzed in greater detail and shared with the public before ODOT makes final recommendations for the corridor this winter.  Construction could begin as early as 2008 and could cost more than $500 million.

 While the Urbanized Freeway concept did not rank as high as the CD road concepts, Marchbanks said it was carried forward for further study because engineers thought it could potentially be improved during the next phase of analysis and design.  The concept also costs less and had fewer environmental impacts than other alternatives.     

ODOT is dropping from further consideration four concepts, which include tunneling and decking the highway corridor, as well as rerouting I-70 traffic to State Route 104 and turning portions of I-70 into a city street. 

  Tunneling and decking were by far the most expensive alternatives costing about $1 billion to build, said Marchbanks.  It doesnt make sense to study options taxpayers cant afford when other options are just as good or better, and cost less.

 In addition, although the SR 104 concept was popular with some segments of the public, Marchbanks said it didnt adequately address safety and congestion concerns in the split and had too many environmental impacts. 

 From the beginning, ODOT said it would seek solutions that minimized or avoided environmental impacts, he said.  This concept would disconnect hospitals from the freeway, cut through cemeteries and take far too much residential and industrial land.  We do, however, recognize that SR 104 could play an important role in the future development of Columbus, and we will remain involved in that discussion.