MORE DETAILS WANTED ON I-70/71 SPLIT OPTIONS
By SUE HAGAN
ThisWeek Staff Writer
Some who attended a public meeting Monday about the Ohio Department of Transportation's plans for the I-70/71 split downtown want to know what will happen down the road -- to their street, their commute, their business.
About 75 people attended the first of two open houses held this week to explain the freeway reconfiguration.
Community members asked questions of ODOT personnel while poring over table-sized maps showing highway lanes and ramps and how they affect different parts of downtown.
"I want to know how this will affect Third Street," said Jeffrey Zettler, vice-president of Zettler Hardware, located at the corner of Third and Main streets.
"A fair amount of our customers are pedestrians ... and increased traffic on Third could make it less walkable," he said.
Marvin Walker, who lives in the Waterford Tower Condominiums between Main and Mound streets, worries that motorists will take a short cut along Civic Center Drive to the proposed exit from Mound to the freeway -- especially after the Main Street bridge over the Scioto River reopens.
"The bridge has been out for three years; I'd like to know what will happen when it reopens," he said.
Thomas Slack, ODOT project manager, said most of the questions he heard were very specific.
"They're asking, 'How do I get from here to there? What will this do to my property?" he said.
Slack said that when the plan is approved by the Federal Highway Administration, probably by the end of summer, ODOT will move to the next step -- studying and hearing public input on how to "avoid, minimize and mitigate" the project's effect on parks, homes, historic structures and other city features.
There also will be more discussion on how the plan affects traffic on the surface streets, he said.
Construction could begin in 2011 on the $1-billion project to untangle the overlap of I-70 and I-71, an area that carries about 175,000 vehicles a day. About 800 accidents occur yearly along the stretch, largely because of motorists trying to make quick lane changes to reach exits.
ODOT's plan eliminates most exits to city streets in the area, and calls instead for connector roads that carry traffic to and from the freeway.
Motorists wanting to get to city streets will have to exit and enter the freeway at the edges of downtown. On the east end of the split, Parsons Avenue will become a one-way connector street northbound, and Lester Street will move traffic southbound.
On the south leg of the split, ODOT's preferred option makes Fulton Street the eastbound collector, and Mound Street the westbound.
ODOT officials say another option for the south leg, using Livingston Avenue and Fulton Street, does not perform as well for traffic flow and encroaches too much into the Brewery District and German Village, areas protected under federal law as historic districts. Officials also say that the Mound/Fulton option provides better opportunities for downtown economic development.
Bill Kelley, who lives in Schumacher Place on the South Side, still has questions about how traffic on Parsons Avenue will be affected. But overall, he said, he is pleased that ODOT favors using Mound and Fulton as collector streets.
"Livingston is basically residential, with a few one- and two-person shops that fit with the scheme of German Village and Schumacher Place," he said. "To have the heavy freeway traffic and noise would change that."
ODOT has already earmarked $525-million for all the construction east of the Scioto River. Rebuilding the interchange between I-70/71 and Route 315 will cost an additional $475-million; construction there would likely start after 2015.
Community members have until July 13 to comment on the plans. They can e-mail ODOT by going to www.7071study.org or calling 614-466-7170.
This story ran on page 01A NEWS of ThisWeek, German Village edition on 06/14/2007.