I-70/71 split reconfiguration


By SUE HAGAN , ThisWeek Staff Writer


A six-month Ohio Department of Transportation study has determined that using Mound and Fulton streets as one-way connector streets in the I-70/71 reconfiguration is a better option than using Fulton Street and Livingston Avenue.

There are three major factors behind that recommendation, said Michelle May, ODOT program manager.

First, and perhaps the deciding factor, she said, is that using Livingston Avenue would mean encroaching too deeply into the Brewery District and German Village, which are on the National Register of Historic Places and protected by federal law.

In the same vein, Columbus Public Schools' Africentric School is eligible for the National Register, and is in the path of a Livingston corridor.

"Federal law does give special protection to historic districts," said May. "It requires agencies like ODOT to avoid historical districts if there is a feasible alternative."

Second, the intersections along the cross streets are spaced farther apart under the Mound alternative, providing better traffic flow.

For example, said Thomas J. Hibbard of MS Consultants, which worked with ODOT on the study, eastbound traffic turning left from Livingston onto Front Street quickly backs up at Fulton, causing congestion the length of the short block.

By comparison, the block between Fulton and Mound is longer, allowing for more "stacking" room for cars turning left off Fulton onto Front. The situation at Grant Avenue is similar, Hibbard said.

The third reason that ODOT prefers the Mound-Fulton alternative is that it could lead to greater economic development downtown.

"City council has said for the past two years that economic development should be considered," said May.

She said that a city analysis shows that if Mound Street becomes a through corridor, it would spur more jobs and tax revenue.

May said that there are challenges associated with the Mound option. Among other things, ODOT would need to purchase land to reconnect Mound between Grant and Fifth.

Additionally, residents of the Miranova and Waterford Tower condominiums oppose a new ramp that would be built nearby to connect Mound Street with the freeway. They also worry about noise and pollution.

May said that once ODOT makes its final recommendation, the agency will work with neighbors on their issues.

She said it is crucial that one option be selected so the $1-billion project can get under way to untangle a highway that ODOT considers one of the most congested and high-crash freeway locations in the state.

Katharine Moore, executive director of the German Village Society, said the Mound-Fulton option protects the village.

"We have a small pedestrian-scaled historic neighborhood," she said, adding that noise and pollution from more cars and the lengthy construction process would "be a nightmare for us."

ODOT will hold open houses on June 11 and 13 to answer questions and listen to comments from the public. Both meetings will be 5-7 p.m. at the Columbus Health Department Auditorium, 240 Parsons Ave.

The public has until July 13 to provide input; after that ODOT will submit its recommendation to the Federal Highway Administration and make its final decision by the end of summer.

For more detail on the options and reaction from community members, please go to www.thisweeknews.com.


This story ran on page ALL NEWS of ThisWeek, Common edition on 06/07/2007.