State Route 161 fix coming into focus
There's good news and bad news regarding the routine traffic snarls on West Dublin-Granville Road (state Route 161).
"The good news is that the conversation has begun to fix the roadway," Northwest Civic Association President John Ehlers said during the May 1 monthly meeting of the board of directors.
The bad news, he noted, is that fix won't come cheap, and no funding sources have been identified to widen state Route 161 between Sawmill and Linworth roads.
Still, Ehlers said last week, there is more reason for optimism that the process for seeking to alleviate some of the traffic congestion in the area has begun than had existed for the past several years.
In part, he said, he believes this is the result of a private meeting he and Perry Township Trustee Chet J. Chaney convened in late April with representatives of the various government entities involved in how West Dublin-Granville Road functions today and in any effort to improve it.
Representatives from Columbus and Worthington along with the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, Franklin County Engineer's office, the township and the civic association sat down for what Ehlers said he believes was a productive discussion.
"I think the big hurdle that we crossed was an acknowledgment on the part of the city that before further development goes on on 161 that the road condition needs to be addressed," Ehlers said.
"In some other parts of the country the infrastructure is developed before any commercial or residential development occurs. In the Midwest, and Columbus is no different from other cities, it's really development that drives infrastructure."
Ehlers said that means attorney Connie Klema might have been right.
In advocating for a client who wants to build a 326-unit apartment complex on the south side of West Dublin-Granville Road just east of Linworth Road, Klema acknowledged during numerous appearances before the civic association's board that traffic is a major problem in the area.
However, she said on several occasions, a development like the one her client was proposing could be the impetus to government entities finding the funding to deal with the frequent major backups.
Klema's argument's notwithstanding, both the Northwest Civic Association board and the City Development Commission have recommended denial of the proposed zoning change to pave the way for the apartment buildings.
A final decision rests with City Council, either later this month or in early June.
The large-scale residential development and the potential addition of more traffic than an overloaded stretch of two-lane road can handle has helped gain the attention of government officials, according to Ehlers, particularly for ODOT and MORPC.
"And these are all important groups to raise the awareness in terms of the roadway," he said.
The next phase in the process begun in late April is possibly a traffic study conducted jointly by ODOT and MORPC, Ehlers said last week.
"I do not know the details," he admitted.
At the NWCA meeting May 1, Ehlers said upgrading the railroad crossing near Linworth Road could cost as much as $20 million while widening 161 between Sawmill Road and state Route 315 could conceivably cost between $30 and $35 million.
"The process has started," Ehlers said at the meeting. "I'm encouraged that the conversation has begun."