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City Council gives nod to turn lane -- so what's next?

North Broadway work slated for August, but a planned injunction could halt 'disappointing' plans

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Now it's wait and see.

North Broadway Street Association President Carole W. Tomko will wait to see if construction of a controversial turn lane stays out of the disputed right of way that's the subject of a lawsuit.

Mike McLaughlin, former Clintonville Area Commission representative who headed a task force that recommended a turn lane at East North Broadway and North High Street four years ago, will wait to see if legal proceedings halt the planned start of construction, currently scheduled for late August.

Residents of side streets off East North Broadway will see, once they're done waiting for the lane installation to be completed, if the addition of the turn lane at the conclusion of what's to be a 75-day project by Decker Construction Co. will relieve them of the cut-through traffic they've long complained about.

Phillip L. Harmon, the Worthington attorney for the street association, said he won't wait long to see if an injunction can halt construction until the dispute over right of way is resolved.

"We've not filed yet, but it's our intention to do so," Harmon said late last week.

And Sandy Simbro, former CAC member and for years the head of the zoning and variance committee, will wait to see if the geniality that once typified the neighborhood ever returns in the wake of the deep divisions created among residents over the turn-lane controversy.

She said she doubts it.

"It has made for an unfriendly feeling," Simbro said following Columbus City Council's approval of $310,000 to add a left-turn lane for westbound traffic on East North Broadway. "I have been here 43 years and I'm not comfortable. I am not comfortable at all."

Council voted 6-1 on June 17 to fund the project, with Michelle Mills casting the lone dissenting vote.

"I wanted to see something that looked at future growth to make sure there wasn't something else that needed to be done again on that road," she told The Columbus Dispatch.

"While North Broadway residents on both the west and east sides of High Street are disappointed in the outcome of Monday night's council vote, they are looking forward with hope that the safety consequences they fear due the addition of two moving lanes of traffic at the intersection will not come to fruition," Tomko wrote in a statement issued June 19. "Additionally, we will be seeking reassurance from the Department of Public Service that the widening of East North Broadway will not encroach in to the disputed 15 feet of right of way."

Those 15 feet are the subject of a lawsuit filed on behalf of the North Broadway Street Association in November 2010 against the city, Franklin County, the Ohio Department of Transportation and others.

The legal action maintains that county commissioners voted in August 1952 to give what had been public right of way to East North Broadway residents as private property.

The council decision will not affect the lawsuit, Tomko said.

"The vote Monday night has nothing to do with the property-rights issue in terms of the suit regarding the width of the right of way," she said.

McLaughlin was asked if he thought, after so much time, dispute and shifting of positions by the CAC on the turn-lane project, the day would come when the path is cleared to its construction.

"I don't know that day is here yet," he said. "Government is done with their part of getting this project completed. There's still that judicial end, and I don't know what the North Broadway Street Association is thinking.

"Until the project begins and nothing pops up, then call and ask me if I thought I'd ever see this day come."

"I would say it's disappointing," Tomko said in an interview. "There's a lot of really high-quality, thoughtful planning going into traffic in the city ... and I still believe everyone could get what they wanted in terms of southbound traffic, in terms of beautification with a willingness on the part of city to analyze.

"They're just not interested."

In her long involvement with Clintonville, Simbro said only the proposed Morse-Bethel connector has been as divisive an issue in the community as the turn lane.

"It was bigger," Simbro said. "I don't know if it was as ugly. I don't remember there being so much bullying as there has been on this issue."

Council's decision, she added, ignored the concerns of East North Broadway residents in favor of those living on side streets.

"Their situation is by no means unique," Simbro said. "It is just the way things work. Traffic takes the path of least resistance, and I can probably find at least a dozen other streets that could 'suffer' with as much cut-through traffic, if not more.

"The squeaky wheel got the attention, and got their way," she said. "I do think the character in the sense of neighborhood will be lost permanently ... because of the massive traffic that will be concentrated in that area.

"There goes our pedestrian-friendly neighborhood."

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