I-70/71 PLANS
Mound, Fulton future portals?
Favored plan boosts southern end of Downtown, officials say
Wednesday,  June 6, 2007 3:40 AM
State transportation officials will recommend today that Mound and Fulton streets become major gateways into and out of Downtown as part of a plan to unravel the hazardous I-70/71 split.

When the freeway is reconfigured beginning in 2011, Mound would become one-way westbound for traffic from I-71 on the east side headed to destinations Downtown. Fulton Street would be its eastbound counterpart, taking traffic from Rt. 315 through Downtown.

The proposal from the Ohio Department of Transportation leaves Livingston Avenue, the Brewery District and German Village unscathed.

Residents of Miranova and Waterford Towers on the west side of Downtown opposed the Mound-Fulton proposal. Another option would have used Fulton and Livingston Avenue on the south side of the I-70/71 corridor, instead of Mound.

Using Mound as a collector street could help redevelop the southern end of Downtown, especially the southeast quadrant, officials say.

"It creates better opportunities east of High Street," ODOT engineer Thom Stack said. A city analysis last year estimated that the Mound proposal would produce 7,500 jobs at offices and other businesses that would pop up after the highway is rebuilt. Using Livingston as a collector off the freeway would yield 4,900 jobs.

The Mound option would generate more than $450 million in city taxes over 50 years, and the Livingston option slightly less than $300 million, according to the analysis.

"We were interested in what we thought would be a positive impact on the southern edge of Downtown," said consultant Keith Myers of MSI, who along with Doyle Clear of Trans Associates developed the Mound option.

"There's going to be a new portal into Downtown," he said. "It's clear to me that it's going to bring that area to the forefront."

ODOT will host public meetings on the Mound-Fulton Street option from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday and June 13 at the Columbus Health Department, 240 Parsons Ave. The project's goal is to reduce the number of ramps to four from 17 on the 1.5-mile stretch of interstate freeway, which leads the state in congestion and crashes, with about 800 each year.

Miranova and Waterford residents outlined concerns about noise levels and aesthetics 18 months ago. ODOT's favored option would elevate Mound Street, making it the view from terraces of the condominium building, they said.

"We are very concerned," said Nancy Brown, Miranova condo association president. "The concerns that we have as a neighborhood have not been addressed.

"I don't think this is all over yet, but I do think the ball is on ODOT's court right now and the city's to deal with the very real issues down here. You've got 200 families that will be affected by this."

Glenn Kacic, Waterford's condo association president, said the elevated ramps could hurt the appeal of both upscale buildings.

"We want to keep this a successful part of Downtown," Kacic said. "We want to make sure that we don't become cut off from Downtown and become an island unto ourselves."

Frederic Gautier, president of Winther Investments in Texas, said he's been waiting to learn how ODOT's plans would affect his Brewery District apartment project.

His Liberty Place recently opened five buildings with 135 apartments. Its remaining seven buildings are on hold until a decision is reached on the freeway reconstruction.

"The tenants do not want to be staring at a retaining wall," Gautier said. "Until I see the final decision on the freeway design, I am reluctant to start my redesigning."

Others in the Brewery District were more upbeat.

"Anything that doesn't turn Livingston Avenue into a freeway, we are in favor of," said Brad Kitchen, president of the Brewery District Association.

"We prefer the quieter and lower traffic flow. That doesn't impact all our buildings so much, especially since we have so many historic buildings in the Brewery District."