ODOT looks at options to ease I-270 north congestion

By KATIE LOMBARDI 
SUBURBAN NEWSPAPERS
JANUARY 14, 2004

The Ohio Department of Transportation is getting ready to release plans to reduce congestion on Interstate 270.

ODOT conducted a nine-month study that began last July. The study was to determine what could be done with the I-270 ramps at state Route 315, U.S. Route 23 and Interstate 71. The improvement project is set to begin in 2008.

Project Manager Scott Phinney said that the north section of the Outerbelt is the fourth most-congested and high-crash freeway location in Ohio.

There has been a 25 percent jump in traffic over the last two years on I-270 between Route 315 and Route 23.

That section of the freeway is used by about 179,000 vehicles a day and has 542 accidents each year.

ODOT officials met with the Far North Columbus Communities Coalition last Tuesday and discussed several options to decrease traffic along the I-270 interchange at 23 and 315.

Phinney said one option is to widen the lanes on 23 at the interchange, but added there are obstacles including the distance available to widen the road and multiple traffic lanes that are condensed as they pass the interchange.

Phinney also discussed preliminary plans for a grade separation on 23 that would drop traffic lanes 20 feet below the current lanes, allowing vehicles to bypass traffic lights and intersections.

Travelers would then be able to reach areas to the north faster.

ODOT officials also plan to eliminate multiple loop ramps at various interchanges of I-71 as well as 315 and 23.

"The way those interchanges are set up with loop ramps forces people to make multiple lane changes," Phinney said.

Another problem with loop ramps is that they don't do well under high volumes and cause weaving, especially in four-quadrant areas such as the one along Route 23, Phinney added.

Phinney said ODOT no longer designs ramps that close together.

One option would be replacing some of the loop ramps with single-point urban interchanges, such as at I-270's interchange at Sawmill Road.

The interchange is diamond-shaped and merges four ramps into one intersection with one signal controlling traffic.

Phinney said ODOT is considering single-points as possibilities for other ramps on I-270 but did not think it was possible for the I-270-Route 23 interchange because of a high traffic volume.

"There would be too many conflicting movements and not enough green time," Phinney said.

ODOT's current timeline includes completing an environmental study by 2004 and finishing design improvements made to the loop ramps by 2007.

ODOT officials will meet with the public and various organizations such as the Far North Columbus Communities Coalition in February to further discuss options to de-congest and reduce collisions on the Outerbelt.

"The way those interchanges are set up with loop ramps (at Routes 23 and 315 and Interstate 71) forces people to make multiple lane changes." Scott Phinney, ODOT project manager