While the village of Johnstown Planning and Zoning Commission has been working hard for many months to update its 2005 comprehensive plan and expects to continue to do so until at least summer, one issue demonstrates the difficulty of planning: A highway bypass for the village of Johnstown.

While the village of Johnstown Planning and Zoning Commission has been working hard for many months to update its 2005 comprehensive plan and expects to continue to do so until at least summer, one issue demonstrates the difficulty of planning: A highway bypass for the village of Johnstown.

Construction will begin this spring on changes to the downtown intersection of state Route 37 and U.S. Route 62, including the addition of turn lanes and changes to traffic signals. The work should help reduce growing congestion, but in the long term the only solution to heavy downtown traffic is a high speed bypass.

Jim Lenner, village planner and acting administrator, told The Independent that the idea of a bypass has been floated since at least 2005, when the current comprehensive plan was developed. At that time, the general belief was that heavy traffic would be to the northwest side of the village, toward Sunbury.

"I think this first appeared in 2005 in the original strategic plan," Lenner said. "A lot of the assumption at that time was that state Route 37 up to Sunbury and then down to state Route 161 was going to be the more heavily traveled roadway, and they were going to try to connect those sections."

Today, however, with the opening of the high speed, interstate quality throughway on state Route 161, the picture looks different.

"Seeing how traffic has increased on U.S. Route 62, a lot of people are using 62 to get to New Albany to Columbus," Lenner said. "What we will see now is a lot of traffic heading south on 37 to 161 or 310 to 161, to get to the new 161.

"With that just opening, there are some unknowns," he said. "We'll have to get counts to see how traffic counts have changed because of the new roadway."

No matter how the area develops, the controlling factor in any bypass will be money to build it. Since the village will not have a budget to do so, and the state Department of Transportation controls both routes 37 and 62, the funding decision will be made by the state.

For many reasons, that means such a project is 15, 20 or even 30 years away, Lenner said.

"The village has no way to finance an operation like that," Lenner said. "It would be state funded. This would be 20 years down the road, and that's if the economy picks back up. 161 was 15 years in the making. Cherry Valley Road has been a problem for many years, and that's still being addressed."

James Decker, project engineer for W.E. Stilson, village engineers, said that a decade is no time at all for such major transportation projects.

"I would put it out there as at least 20 years down the road before it could happen," Decker said. "With any large transportation project, there are so many factors, and getting major funding is in play. Then you have to get acquisition of right of way clearances and environmental clearances.

"When you are talking a large scale project, it takes a good 10 years for a lot of those things to materialize, if not longer."

Despite such uncertainty, the village still has to plan for such development, Lenner said, noting that the planning and zoning commission will continue to address the possibility of a bypass during its updates to the strategic plan.