Pickerington officials are trying to convince the Ohio Department of Transportation to reconsider a proposal for an interchange at U.S. Route 33 and Pickerington Road.
In accordance with ODOT's long-range goal of making U.S. 33 a limited-access highway, the state has proposed the existing intersection at Pickerington Road be replaced by an interchange.
While a $1.5 million study for the interchange ranks seven out of eight on a Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission funding priority list, the proposal nonetheless has city officials concerned.
Pickerington City Council's Safety Committee, spearheaded by Councilman Jeff Fix, hopes to sway both MORPC and ODOT's Transportation Review Advisory Council to move the proposed interchange about 4,000 feet east to the next roadway, Allen Road.
Fix said other state and local government stakeholders agree that an interchange at Pickerington Road simply isn't feasible given the potential traffic issues it would create.
"Moving that exit down to Allen Road seems like a more viable alternative than running all those trucks right through the heart of our little downtown," he said.
Fix said Allen Road also offers a better opportunity in which to spur economic development, especially if it were to eventually intersect with Refugee Road. He said an eastern spoke of such an intersection would be an optimal "economic development corridor" benefitting all of Fairfield County.
Fix said he has talked to U.S. Congressman Steve Stivers (R-15) about the issue as well as representatives from the Fairfield County Regional Planning Commission and the County Engineer's Office.
"They're all on absolutely on board," he said, referring to the Allen Road proposal.
It appears ODOT remains committed, however, to pursuing the Pickerington Road interchange.
A 2013 ODOT report indicated an Allen Road interchange would be more expensive, require too many local roadway improvements, create environmental issues, and would still necessitate a Pickerington Road overpass.
Violet Township Director of Operations Bill Yaple said ODOT is well aware of the township's desire to move the interchange to Allen Road as well.
"We haven't changed our philosophy," Yaple said.
"We always asked for (the interchange) to be Allen Road. ODOT doesn't agree with us," he said.
A thoroughfare plan commissioned by Violet Township in 2008, intended to serve as a planning tool for future transportation investments, touted Allen Road's potential as a "primary north/south corridor."
Yaple said a proposed "Carroll interchange" at U.S. 33 and Winchester Road, which is higher on the funding priority list, might be too close to an Allen Road interchange in ODOT's view.
"The other comment ODOT has always said is that Allen Road goes nowhere south of (U.S.) 33, that it doesn't cross and make a connection," he said.
Yaple said even if the Pickerington Road interchange is selected by ODOT, a new roadway connection between Pickerington Road and Allen Road could serve to divert through traffic away from the city of Pickerington.
Regardless of ODOT's choice, he predicted an interchange construction at either location is "10 to 15 years" down the line.
ODOT officials have stated an announcement regarding which projects receive funding will be made in September.
Fix said there is still time to convince ODOT to consider the Allen Road interchange before the project "starts the engineering process."
"We have a long way to go," he said. "We've got years to go."