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Columbus Crossroads
I-70/I-71 South Innerbelt - August 2002

Introduction to the Executive Summary

In order to make the best transportation decisions regarding the I-70/I-71 South Innerbelt, it is necessary to first know the existing conditions of the highway. Those existing conditions include such physical things as the condition of the pavement and bridges, but also include the number of vehicles that use the highway and the presence of nearby parks and historic neighborhoods.

This information will help everyone better understand the extent of any problems in the current design and structure and will allow for more informed comments and suggestions as planners develop solutions to the recognized problems.

The full Executive Summary, linked below, contains additional details about the existing conditions. Also, the data used to develop the Executive Summary is available for further study.

Following are some key, overall conclusions based upon the data collected:

  • Current traffic volume exceeds the design capacity of the highway, contributing to congestion and delay.

The traffic count for 2002 finds about 175,000 vehicles per day traveling on a section of highway built to handle 120,000 vehicles per day. ODOT has declared this section of highway the most congested in the state.

  •   Traffic peaks at around 7 a.m. and continues at near peak until 7 p.m.

Unlike many urban corridors, where traffic peaks during morning and evening rush hour but declines during the day, the South Innerbelt experiences high levels of traffic throughout the day. Although the interstate system was originally developed primarily for long-distance travel and for national defense reasons, about 75 percent of those using this section of highway are commuters or nearby residents.

  •  Crash data for the period 1999-2001 shows 1,225 accidents in the study area each year - more than three accidents every day.

The most common accidents are rear-end crashes (63 %) and sideswipe crashes (21%.) Also, most accidents appear to be in the inbound direction - which is consistent with the high number of rear-end accidents since motorists entering the highly congested area are unaware of, or inattentive to, stopped or slowing traffic ahead and are unable to stop in time.

  • The overlapping of the two interstates forces drivers to "weave" through lanes, causing demanding decisions for drivers and increasing the number of conflict points.

Eleven of the horizontal curves do not meet ODOT standards and all of the interchange ramps lack sufficient length for proper acceleration and merging into mainline traffic. The spacing between interchange and ramp terminals does not meet design standards; does not provide adequate distances to merge from the mainline freeway traffic; and does not give drivers enough time to read directional signs.

  • The South Innerbelt is a vital transportation link for freight traffic - about 30 percent of all freight moving in Ohio goes through this area.

Freight industry officials made clear their dependency on these two major interstate routes, adding they would be more likely to use the area if it is improved. Concerns were also expressed about the impact on their business due to any construction that may be associated with eventual improvements.

  • The pavement for the majority of the freeway system is rated favorably, however the pavement in the I-70/I-71 overlap area is fair to poor, indicating a need for resurfacing in the near future.

The bridges are rated from satisfactory to excellent condition and the retaining walls are rated from satisfactory to good condition.

  • There are a number of existing social and physical environmental conditions in the study area that must be taken into consideration as various solutions are proposed.

The number one goal of ODOT as this process moves forward is to "fix the highway and be a good neighbor." This requires that input be sought from throughout the impacted area and that residents be vital partners in developing alternatives.

Overall, as discussions regarding eventual recommendations move forward, it's important to consider that the South Innerbelt does not provide efficient traffic movement into and out of the Columbus urban area; a large portion of the corridor does not meet current design standards; and accidents in the area are numerous.