Olentangy Valley News

Murphy Parkway

Throng's plea to City Council: Nix extension

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After dozens of residents voiced concerns about increased traffic, Powell City Council temporarily tabled plans to move forward with engineering for the extension of Murphy Parkway.

About 80 residents of adjacent neighborhoods packed into council chambers before the March 19 meeting to protest the planned road extension. Council listened to residents -- including two children -- speak for more than an hour against the extension.

Council was scheduled to approve a preliminary development plan for the project so a firm could be hired to engineer an extension of Murphy Parkway to connect with South Liberty Street just east of its current terminus.

Three council members were absent from the meeting: Sara Marie Brenner, Mike Crites and Brian Lorenz.

Of the four present council members, Mayor Richard Cline and Councilman Tom Counts initially voted to approve the ordinance. But Councilmen Jon Bennehoof and Jim Hrivnak said approval could wait until absent council members weigh in on the subject.

Lacking sufficient votes to pass the ordinance, the four council members agreed to table the issue until the April 16 meeting, when it will be reconsidered.

"We invite the residents to work with city staff to present additional information they want to give us, and invite fellow (absent) council members to comment as they see fit," Cline said after the issue was tabled.

Powell leaders have said the extension of Murphy Parkway will provide a much-needed bypass for commuters at the southwest corner of the congested Four Corners Intersection in downtown Powell.

But residents said repeatedly that completing the parkway will increase through-traffic and make their neighborhood less safe.

More children walk to Tyler Run Elementary School on Salisbury Drive just west of South Liberty Street than to any other school in the Olentangy school district.

Lisa Ingram read an excerpt from Powell's website that promises "a sense of tranquility" to residents.

"Is that tranquility only reserved for those neighborhoods that don't back up to the Four Corners?" she asked.

Ron Minto said continued development along Sawmill Parkway will push more and more traffic through the neighborhood in the years to come. He said he witnessed a similar phenomenon at his previous home in Pickerington.

"In a very short amount of time, it went from a very comfortable community to a traffic-ensnarled mess," he said. "By the time people started to notice, it was too late to fix it."

Just two residents spoke in favor of the extension. One was Tom Ritchie, owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital on West Olentangy Street, just west of the Four Corners.

"We have a huge traffic problem in this city," Ritchie said.

Most residents said that problem would be better addressed by adding turn lanes at the intersection. Council members have said they are interested in exploring that possibility.

But at the meeting, Cline said the Murphy Parkway bypass should be in place first to serve as a detour during construction of the turn lanes. Bypasses already exist in the other three quadrants around the intersection.

The extension of Murphy Parkway has been in the works for more than a decade, but not until this year was the city able to secure the necessary funding.

Officials pledged to complete the project -- among other capital improvements -- if voters approved a 10-year, 1.8-mill property tax levy on the ballot in February. The issue passed easily.

The bypass would provide an alternate east-west route south of the Liberty Road-Powell Road intersection, officials said.

The intersection can become so backed up at rush hour that it received an "F" rating from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

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