Johnstown Independent

Johnstown to sift through proposals for Route 62 turn lanes

By ANDREW KING
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Friday, Jan. 17, marked another official step toward a major renovation of U.S. Route 62 in Johnstown.

That was the deadline for the village to accept design proposals for the addition of a turn lane on the busy road.

Set to be in construction in 2018, the project would add a center turn lane to Route 62, between Benedict Drive and Oregon Street, on the west side of Johnstown. The renovation is expected to cost about $4 million altogether, with funding split among the village, the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Licking County Area Transportation Study.

The plan has been in the works since 2006, when LCATS notified the village that it had identified a "noticeable problem" with the number of accidents between Benedict Drive and Oregon Street.

When Village Manager Jim Lenner was appointed in 2010, no solution had been identified yet.

"When I got into the position, I asked the county about the traffic in the area and what there is to do," Lenner told ThisWeek. "They told me about the study. They updated the study for free with new data, new traffic counts and new traffic counts, and said, 'Yes, this is still a problem.' "

Lenner said he then was advised that a turn lane could help solve issues with both congestion and crashes on the stretch of road and that funding might be available.

Over the course of four years (2015-18), the village will spend about $700,000 on the project, with LCATS providing $800,000 and ODOT funding up to $2.5 million, depending on final costs.

Lenner said the contributions are huge, given the size of Johnstown's budget.

"(The project) is something we could never even imagine taking on by ourselves," he said.

The village's request for ODOT funding was the most important step in the process, he said. After an assessment of the project, ODOT approved the finances for the work.

"What we do is look into it and take into consideration what needs to be done and what funding will be needed," said Lauren Holdsworth, ODOT District 5 public-information officer. "We look at what kinds of pressure there is and, obviously, the safety. We look at what this project is going to be, whether it's worthy (of the funding), how much traffic it sees and benefits to community and surrounding businesses."

Holdsworth said ODOT categorizes potential projects into tiers, based on safety and urgency, and said the Route 62 was a tier 2, the second-most urgent.

As of Jan. 16, Lenner was expecting about six different design proposals for the village to review. Each was expected to factor in such considerations as widening the existing road, sidewalks, rain drainage, sewers and -- if funding allows -- lights along the road.

The next step will be for the village to review the proposals.

"The village will narrow it down, and we will interview the top candidates that we want to bring in to be sure that everyone will be on the same page for the project," Lenner said. "We'll schedule those interviews probably within the next 30 days."

Although the project wouldn't be completed until 2018, Lenner said, the process should move quickly now that the first steps have been taken. He said it ultimately would be crucial for the village. If Johnstown officials and residents expect to become a city by 2020 or 2021, as Lenner expects, funding could be even more difficult to secure later.

"Even though it's four years away, it's going to be a very quick process," Lenner said. "It's a project that not only is going to help us in 2018, but there are (also) something like 17,000 cars a day that come through that roadway, so it's only going to get worse as we continue to grow. The cost of construction is only going to get higher as the years go on."

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