Backed-up traffic on Interstate 71 northbound waiting to get off at the Polaris Parkway exit is expected to be a thing of the past by the next decade, thanks to planned roadwork -- but the Delaware County Engineer's Office says that could mean the start of a different pileup.
At the Delaware County commissioners' meeting July 1, Chief Deputy Engineer Rob Riley asked for a vote to approve a $6-million project to widen Worthington Road.
He said when the Ohio Department of Transportation extends Gemini Place through the former Germain Amphitheater site in 2015, Worthington Road may not be able to handle the extra traffic coming its way.
"Depending on the schedule of ODOT's extension of Gemini, we could build this as soon as 2015 and fast-track this, because what we don't want to happen is for the five-lane Gemini extension to be in place and dumping traffic into a two-lane Worthington Road," Riley said.
Worthington Road would be widened by three lanes from Powell Road to Africa Road, Riley said. The lanes would include one in each direction and a center turn lane.
Commissioner Dennis Stapleton said he lives in the area of the planned extension. He questioned if it were possible to add just two lanes instead of three to Worthington Road.
"That's something we can certainly look at as we're moving into preliminary design," Riley said. "Five lanes doesn't carry any more traffic than four; it just increases the capacity slightly. That center turn lane is for safety reasons, not for cars to drive in."
Stapleton and Commissioner Gary Merrell voted to approve the $6-million contract with Orchard, Hiltz & Mccliment Inc. to complete the project. Commissioner Ken O'Brien was absent.
Riley said the Gemini Place and Worthington Road improvements would suffice for now in a part of growing southern Delaware County that's notorious for its stalled traffic.
"I think it's reasonable that this phase would provide a life-span of about 10 years before we have to start work on the Africa Road intersection," Riley said.
The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission began Gemini Place extension studies in May 2012 as a proactive approach to any new development that could occur in place of the now-demolished amphitheater.
The amphitheater that sat just north of Polaris Parkway closed in 2007 and was purchased by Polaris-area developer NP Limited in 2012. Its representatives said at the time the site could be developed into an office park or a hospital.
"All this is certainly going to bring some dynamic changes to that area," Stapleton said. "There's no doubt about that and it's going to be interesting to see."