A plan to improve Bixby Road may benefit Canal Winchester residents and commuters, engineers said at a Sept. 23 public meeting.

A plan to improve Bixby Road may benefit Canal Winchester residents and commuters, engineers said at a Sept. 23 public meeting.

A study done for the Franklin County Engineer's Office by Stantec Consulting Services Inc. recommends realigning Bixby and Brice roads to intersect at Winchester Pike and building a new road that connects Ebright and/or Richardson Road to the proposed U.S. Route 33 interchange at Bixby Road.

"It's very preliminary," said Gregory Payne, spokesman for the Franklin County Engineer's Office. "Nothing is set in stone."

Or in pavement -- the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) was to begin construction on the new interchange this year, but work on the project won't start until 2012 at the earliest, according to ODOT's Web site. The Route 33 Corridor Project, in the works since 2001, would make Route 33 "a limited-access highway with interchanges and overpasses instead of intersections," according to ODOT.

Eliminating the intersections may reduce traffic jams and rear-end crashes along Route 33, which runs from Columbus to Wheeling.

Bixby Road is one of five such roads along a 12-mile stretch of Route 33 proposed to be converted to an interchange or overpass by ODOT at an estimated cost of $145-million.

Meanwhile, the Franklin County Engineer's Office will be updating nearby thoroughfares to handle potential traffic growth, including Bixby Road.

"They're doing it in two phases," said Tim Lucks, real estate administrator for the engineer's office. "ODOT is doing the (Route 33-Bixby Road) interchange project first, then (we're) going to fix Bixby Road."

"Bixby Road has to grow up," Franklin County traffic engineer Michael Meeks said. "It has to change."

Franklin County began planning improvements to Bixby Road in 2003. The Stantec study presented at last week's meeting covers an area that extends for approximately two miles along Bixby and is bounded by Bachman Road to the north, the Indiana & Ohio Railroad to the south, a half-mile west of Ebright Road to the west and Gender Road to the east. The eastern portion of the study area also includes a portion of Lehman Road.

The five options included:

West Alternative A would upgrade and add capacity to both Bixby and Ebright roads using their existing alignments. Cost: $27.1-million.

West Alternative B would upgrade both roads to meet ODOT standards and would provide added capacity on a new arterial road that would connect Ebright and/or Richardson Road to the new interchange. Cost: $16.8-million.

East Alternative A would improve Bixby on its current alignment and would realign Bixby and Brice roads to intersect at Winchester Pike in a new, four-legged intersection. Cost: $11.6-million.

East Alternative B would realign Bixby Road to the south, creating a T-intersection with Winchester Pike. Brice Road would be extended south across Winchester Pike to intersect with Bixby. Cost: $13.9-million.

East Alternative C would realign Bixby and Brice roads to create a four-legged intersection with Winchester Pike. A new connector road would be built to intersect Bixby just west of Rager Road and tie into Winchester Pike at both ends. Cost: $18.6-million.

"We've gotten rid of those alternatives we know we can't do because of environmental concerns," Meeks said.

Bixby Road is currently two lanes wide between Ebright Road and Winchester Pike. Adding lanes would "help get traffic into Winchester Pike," said Stantec project manager Brian Hagerty.

"Gender and Hamilton roads are already overwhelmed," Meeks said. "So (these changes) would help traffic on Gender."

Yet the study results aren't set in stone, either, because the three-hour meeting on Sept. 23 was designed as an open house, with engineers on hand to discuss the possible changes. Dozens of citizens asked how the proposals would affect their properties and were given a chance to write comments and offer alternatives.

"We love when that happens," Meeks said. "People are smart. They know the area. There's a good chance we could use their ideas."

If everything goes as planned, Franklin County's portion of the Bixby Road construction project will be completed in 2017 at a cost of $28.4-million.