Delaware News

Leaders: Extension could take pressure off Route 23

City, county mull Sawmill Parkway, how to share costs of lengthening it

Just before 7 p.m. Feb. 11, a vehicle traveling south on U.S. Route 23 on Delaware's south side crossed the median, striking a northbound vehicle.

Police quickly closed the road, forcing all northbound traffic onto South Sandusky Street and directing thousands of vehicles into bumper-to-bumper traffic through Delaware's central hub.

According to one Delaware official, it's a prime example of how extending Sawmill Parkway from its current terminus at Hyatts Road north to South Section Line Road in Delaware would benefit motorists.

City spokesman Lee Yoakum said a completed parkway, touted for its potential economic benefits, also would serve as a second major north-south transportation link in the region.

Currently, adjacent roads can't accommodate the same volume of traffic as Route 23.

"For that reason alone, the parkway needs to be completed," Yoakum said.

The proposed $50-million project is pending, awaiting a resolution to negotiations between Delaware County and the city of Delaware for a cost-sharing plan to fund the portion of the road extension that would fall within Delaware city limits.

Yoakum said the project would be an economic boon for the city, opening up about 1,600 acres of land for the expansion of the city's industrial parks, including the creation of 3,000 jobs.

But economic benefits aside, Delaware County Engineer Chris Bauserman said the region may face major traffic-management issues in the coming years if the parkway extension is not completed.

"The area where the Sawmill Parkway extension would be located is seeing growth and will continue to be one of the growth centers of the county, and when that happens, the amount of traffic that will be placed on the existing road system is more than the existing road network can handle," Bauserman said.

Other options have been studied. Bauserman said the engineer's office considered widening Liberty Road or South Section Line Road instead, but both would be much more costly than the proposed extension of Sawmill Parkway.

Bauserman added he wouldn't expect the completed road to provide much relief to Route 23 under normal circumstances, but said it would be a vital link between the developing area and the southern portion of the county.

Construction could begin as early as 2014, if city and county officials can reach an agreement on how to share the cost of the $15 million, 1.5-mile stretch of road inside Delaware city limits.

That's far from certain. County Commissioners Ken O'Brien and Dennis Stapleton both said they aren't sure if the parkway extension should take priority over other road projects, such as much-needed improvements to the interchange of Interstate 71 with U.S. Route 36 and state Route 37.

Both had a lukewarm response to the city's initial proposal to pay for one-fourth of the construction costs.

The offer was based on a traffic study city officials said showed just a quarter of the estimated traffic that would use the route would originate in the city of Delaware.

Recently, officials formulated another study, currently in progress, that has the potential to spur an agreement.

The study will quantify the potential for tax revenue if Sawmill Parkway is completed -- as well as its benefits as a transportation link, Yoakum said.

"Both are pressing needs that we believe could be addressed, not just for the city but for Delaware County and the entire region," he said.

It would take about 18 months to complete the road, spanning two construction seasons, Bauserman said.

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