Olentangy Valley News

State Route 750 widening

City, township may split cost; should zoo pay, too?

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Officials in Liberty Township and Powell are sorting out how much each community will pay toward a project to relieve traffic congestion east of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Liberty Township secured a $3.5 million grant in 2012 from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission for a project to widen state Route 750 from Sawmill Parkway to the zoo. Additional turn lanes also would be constructed on Sawmill Parkway's northbound intersection with Route 750.

Liberty Township Administrator Dave Anderson said the project runs counter to the idea that Delaware County does not contribute to the zoo financially.

"This is the third widening of state Route 750 that's occurred to ... support the zoo," Anderson said. "One was a complete relocation to foster their long-term capital plan."

Anderson said the zoo has been "a great corporate resident," but it can put a strain on the township's infrastructure and fire and EMS services.

Delaware County pledged $875,000 and Liberty Township allocated $50,000 to match the initial MORPC grant. The Ohio Department of Transportation then agreed to put more than $1.1 million toward the project.

That still left the $7.7 million project with a funding shortfall of about $2.2 million.

Anderson said ODOT will contribute $2 million in additional safety grant funding if a $300,000 local match can be secured. He said he's been in contact with the city of Powell and the zoo about how that match could be paid.

"I think a three-way split would be appropriate," Anderson said.

Liberty Township Trustee Tom Mitchell said it's only fair that Powell and the zoo share in the local match costs.

"It just feels like they should have some skin in the game, since the two biggest benefactors (of the project) are Powell and the zoo," he said.

Powell Vice Mayor Brian Lorenz said at last week's Powell City Council meeting that he was not comfortable moving forward until the zoo contributes to the project.

"Somehow, some way, the zoo's got to be a player in this," he said. "Here's an entity that's driving the majority of the traffic and not contributing anything.

"Here we are again left holding the bag, and it's getting to be pretty old."

Powell Councilman Jon Bennehoof said he thought the city and township should team up to approach the zoo about contributing to the project.

Powell City Manager Steve Lutz said Liberty Township officials would be invited to a future meeting of Powell City Council's Finance Committee to further discuss the funding situation.

Anderson said he's confident the communities can find an equitable way to split the local match.

"If we come up with this $300,000 (match), we have everything we need to get this project in the ground," he said.

Construction on the project could begin in 2015.

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