ODOT offers eight options to improve Downtown split

German Village Gazette Suburban Newspapers 
May 26, 2004
Rosemary Kubera,
German Village Gazette Reporter

Eight ideas for how to improve the Interstate 71 and I-70 split -- as well as access to Downtown, German Village and other neighborhoods -- will be presented next month.

In July, the Ohio Department of Transportation will whittle the choices down to two or three. A final design decision is due by summer's end.

"We have eight concepts that the public asked us to review and analyze. That is what we will share at the community meetings," said Michelle May, ODOT spokeswoman.

"We are not drawing any conclusions. We are just going to roll out all the information."

In meetings earlier this year, citizens told ODOT they want to prevent accidents and congestion along the interstates. They also asked for easy access to and from freeways, easy connections between neighborhoods and Downtown, and a good environment for pedestrians.

The eight concepts are:

  • Leave the corridor unchanged.

  • Add freeway lanes and one-way "collector-distributor" roads to provide access along both sides of the freeways.

  • Build a tunnel for through, interstate traffic under the existing freeways.

  • Place collector-distributor roads parallel to the freeways to allow access, with a ramp system similar to the one already in existence.

  • Untangle and add lanes to the I-70 and I-71 split, and improve the interchange at I-71 and state Route 315, but leave the freeways otherwise intact. Close or consolidate ramps deemed unsafe.

  • Reroute I-70 through-traffic to state Route 104. Replace the existing stretch of I-70 Downtown with a boulevard.

  • Add freeway lanes and build a two-way collector-distributor road above the interstates and away from neighborhoods.

  • Add freeway lanes, and build a two-way, collector-distributor road on Fulton and Lester.

In response to the public's questions about design ideas presented in late winter, new graphics will be unveiled "to help draw a visual picture of what each concept would look like," said May.

"You will be able to visualize and draw your own conclusions."

She added, "I can't emphasize enough how critical it is to get involved now because we are making multimillion dollar decisions that we will have to live with for decades to come."

The project's price tag is $500 million.

The public is invited to view the eight concepts from 5 to 7:30 p.m. June 8 at the Columbus Health Department, 240 Parsons Ave.

Additional forums will be from 5 to 7 p.m. June 15 at the Meeting Haus in German Village, 588 S. Third St., and June 17 at the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission, 285 E. Main St.

A fourth public meeting has not yet been scheduled, said May.

The project is behind schedule because ODOT officials want to please the public, she said. Construction originally was to begin in 2007, but now won't start until late 2008 or early 2009, said May. Work will take three years to complete.

"Ultimately we want to come up with a fix that has broad-based community consensus. To do that we need to take a step back and regroup to address some of the community's concerns. Now having said that, we can't draw this study out indefinitely because every day we continue to have accidents and congestion," said May.

The I-70 and I-71 split is the biggest traffic snarl and high-accident stretch of freeway in the state. It was built 64 years ago to carry 50,000 vehicles a day. More than 175,000 vehicles pass through their now, ODOT records state.

For more information about design concepts, visit the ODOT Web site at www.7071study.org or call 644-8309.