I-70/I-71 South Innerbelt - Summer 2003
Draft Preliminary Concepts & Summary of Analysis
Over the past several months, the Ohio Department of Transportation has been conducting a preliminary analysis of six concepts that may help reduce congestion and accidents on the Interstate 70/71 South Innerbelt in downtown Columbus. The six concepts were identified through a series of public and community meetings and evaluated based on criteria identified by the public.
The criteria placed importance on reducing accidents, improving traffic flow and minimizing or improving the impact of the highway on nearby businesses and neighborhoods.
The results of the analysis are below.
In addition, ODOT is recommending that three of the preliminary concepts be advanced for further study, including rerouting traffic via Interstate 670/State Route 315, reconstructing the existing corridor and highway alternatives such as transit. ODOT is also recommending that three of the preliminary concepts be dropped from study because they don't address the purpose and need for the project. These concepts are rerouting traffic via State Route 104, including a connector road that bypasses the I-70/SR 315 interchange, and truck only lanes.
Safety and congestion are a growing problem on the South Innerbelt. The highway was built during the ‘60s to serve a total of 125,000 vehicles a day. Today, the highway serves 175,000 vehicles including 17,000 trucks. As a result of the congestion and outdated highway design, the downtown "split" experiences about three accidents daily.
ODOT initiated a study last year to identify potential fixes for the corridor. It's a four-step process that includes:
Step 1: Working with various stakeholders to confirm and clarify the problem, issues, community goals and need
Step 2: Determining existing conditions along the corridor by collecting and analyzing all relevant data.
Step 3: Using the data and public input to identify and evaluate possible alternatives or solutions.
Step 4: Recommending the best strategy for improving the corridor.
The study is currently in Step 3.
III. Summary of Analysis and Recommendations
Advancing for Further Study
Concept 3: Reroute trips to Route 315 and I-670
Reasons: Traffic modeling indicates that when the highway is reopened in the fall, it will draw about 30 percent of the traffic off the downtown split. This appears to be an effective, low-cost, short-term solution to easing congestion through the existing I-70/71 corridor, which can be achieved through publicity and special signing.
However, the concept has limited long-term viability because it does not address serious design deficiencies (weaving, ramp spacing, etc.) on I-70/71 or long-term congestion. The SR 315/I-670 corridor has been widened to the greatest extent possible and traffic modeling indicates it does not have enough capacity to serve I-70/71 traffic through 2030.
Concept 4: Improve the operation and safety of the I-70/71 South Innerbelt
Reasons: This is the only concept that addresses both safety and congestion in the existing corridor. The preliminary analysis indicates it may be possible to upgrade the highway to today's design standards and expand it from three to five lanes in each direction using existing right of way. ODOT is looking at several designs that could accomplish this goal, including massive retaining walls to maximize existing right of way and a cantilever or shelf-like design that would allow ODOT to widen the highway underneath Fulton Street and Livingston Avenue. Estimated cost: $600 million.
Concept 6: Provide more transit and encourage other non-highway improvements such as car pooling, tele-commuting and alternate work schedules
Reasons: These concepts offer some congestion relief, but cannot fully address the corridor goals by themselves, as it would only affect about 1 percent of traffic. These strategies should be included as part of any proposed solution for the corridor because of their low cost.
Drop From Study
Concept 1: Upgrade State Route 104
Concept 2: Upgrade State Route 104 and add a connector from I-70 to the I-71/SR 104 interchange
Reasons: The SR 104 concepts fail to address design deficiencies in the I-70/71split, divert only about 10,000 to 15,000 vehicles and would cost between $200 and $300 million to build. In addition, both concepts would have significant environmental impacts including industrial sites, residential units, cemeteries, parks and wetlands.
However, while the concepts don't adequately address problems in the downtown corridor, they may have independent utility in helping to address regional traffic problems. The region may want to revisit elements of these concepts in the future.
Concept 5: Provide Truck Only Lanes
Reasons: This concept does not address design deficiencies on I-70/71 and would only address truck traffic, which makes up only 10 percent of all traffic in the corridor. In addition, to separate truck and car traffic would require building separate facilities that would cost about $1 billion to build.
Concept 6a: Provide a regional High-Occupancy Vehicle Lane
Reasons: This concept does not address design deficiencies on I-70/71 and would only draw a fraction of existing traffic. In addition, it would require building separate facilities for high- and low-occupancy traffic, which would cost about $1 billion to build.
IV. Next Steps
During August and September, ODOT will continue soliciting input from the public on these initial recommendations.
ODOT is paying particular attention to the neighborhoods most affected by the study. This is even more important as specific recommendations emerge.
Project leaders have also kept a keen eye on Mayor Coleman's downtown development initiatives. Although the timing of the Mayor's initiatives is not in lockstep with the study, ODOT understands the need to plan corridor improvements with these initiatives in mind.
By fall, ODOT hopes to make a final recommendation to the public on fixing the I-70/71 corridor.