Northland News

City, ODOT will study SR 161 intersections

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Somewhere, Dave Paul has Ohio Department of Transportation maps of East Dublin-Granville Road dating to the 1980s, the last time it was reconfigured and the system of service roads was built.

"I'm not sure that they really worked well then," he said last week.

They most assuredly do not now, in the view of the former longtime president of the Northland Community Council, now chairman of the development committee. Paul has often expressed the opinion that the access roads on either side of what was once a main commercial corridor serve to hold the area back from redevelopment.

Now Paul and current NCC President Emmanuel V. Remy are hopeful that a joint city-ODOT study of the intersections along state Route 161 from around Interstate 71 east to Westerville Road may mark the beginning of the end for those service roads.

Funding for the study -- $25,000 from the Department of Public Service combined with a $225,000 grant from ODOT -- was approved on the consent agenda at last week's Columbus City Council meeting.

The consulting firm DLZ Ohio Inc., with local offices on Huntley Road, was chosen to conduct the study which, according to city documentation on the project, is intended to "develop alternatives for improvements to all intersections, including service road intersections, along Dublin-Granville Road just east of the I-71 northbound ramps to and including Westerville Road, and resulting in a feasibility study."

"More or less it strictly revolves around safety, basically looking at the intersections to see how they could be designed more safely," said Remy, who received an advance briefing on the legislation before it was enacted.

"As a byproduct, they could realize that the service roads are an issue and could be part of the safety problems," Remy said.

"We'll have to look at what the study tells us," cautioned Rick Tilton, an assistant director with Columbus Public Service. "Once the study is completed, we'll take a look at that. I couldn't project what might come of the service roads based on the study."

The current Northland Plan calls for the eventual elimination of those roads, which run parallel to the main drag in many sections of the study area, according to Remy.

"It takes a significant amount of investment to move in that direction and it's definitely not going to happen overnight," he said. "All of these things help to build evidence to back up the direction we feel it should be going."

"If they come up with a solution to lower the accident rate and save lives, I'm all in favor of it," said Dave Cooper, president of the Northland Area Business Association.

"I think any time you can get dollars that will help focus on improving the lives of our community by enhancing safety, you have to be happy for that kind of examination and you don't know what could happen out of that," Remy said. "We've all kind of thought that those service roads were a cause of a majority of the accidents in that area."

Several of the intersections to be studied routinely rank high on the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission's annual list of the places where traffic accidents occur most often, Paul said.

"I think that certainly may have caught someone's attention," he added. "I'm hoping our consistency in pointing out the issue will have perhaps at least had some impact."

Tilton said the study "essentially is going to be looking at the intersections to see how we can improve the traffic flow.

"We've already done a study along 161 intersections to look at some signal timing to see how we can make that more efficient," he said. "This is one of the things we're trying to do to make those intersections safer."

Paul said he hopes the study achieves "a balance between moving traffic along that corridor -- it is, after all, designated an official state highway -- with the needs of businesses along that 3.5-mile stretch of what we think of as the business area of Northland," Paul said. "I don't know how you do that; I'm self-aware enough to know that I don't know that."

DLZ Ohio, which employs 600 people in 20 offices and provides consulting services in architecture, engineering and surveying, has six months to conduct the study, according to Tilton.

"Of course, there will likely be other costs in the future as we launch into whatever the study says," he added.

Paul said he's pleased the firm chosen to do the study has an office so close to the road in question.

"I think their proximity to the corridor can only help," he said. "This is probably a roadway that the principals are intimately familiar with and perhaps they travel it every day. I'm taking that as a positive."

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