A nearly $8 million project to widen state Route 750 near the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium will move forward thanks to financial support from the city of Powell and Liberty Township.
Powell City Council unanimously approved spending $150,000 on the project at its Aug. 5 meeting, matching the contribution approved by Liberty Township trustees in July.
The project will widen Route 750 between Sawmill Parkway and Wellington Boulevard, just east of the zoo, with the goal of easing traffic congestion in the area. It also will widen Sawmill Parkway at its intersection with Route 750 and add a stretch of bike path that runs from the intersection west to the zoo.
Liberty Township had secured millions in grant funding for the project from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and the Ohio Department of Transportation. The funding, however, was contingent on a $300,000 local match.
Councilman Richard Cline said he previously was "very hesitant" to vote for the project because the work would be located almost completely outside of city limits. He said, however, that Liberty Township officials were "very persuasive" in their argument that the project would benefit both the city and the township.
"The bike path to the zoo is a benefit to the entire community," he said.
Cline said he was not sure the project would relieve traffic much within city limits, but said it was worth a shot.
"When you're drowning, even a few drops of relief are better than nothing," he said.
Vice Mayor Brian Lorenz voted for the funding match, although he reiterated that he thought the zoo should contribute financially to the project.
"(The zoo) should really be helping the city with the traffic issues that we have," he said.
Zoo officials had declined a chance to help fund the project, citing the failure of the zoo's permanent property-tax levy request in May.
Liberty Township Trustee Tom Mitchell said he thought the project was a good example of how the city and township can collaborate to achieve common goals.
"I think this is a project that both of our communities can look very positively on," he said.
Councilman Mike Crites said he looked forward to working more closely with township officials in the future.
"I like the fact that once again we're attempting to step forward together in a collaborative effort ... and I'd like to see us continue to do this on a more-frequent basis," he said.
Powell resident Denise Wible told council she thought the project was "a great opportunity" for the city and township.
"I love the bike-path idea," she said. "We just have had multiple conversations about this at my house all summer because you can't get to the zoo.
"There's a beautiful bike path right by the zoo that will get you to Dublin. Gosh, the world would open up to us."
Construction on the project is expected to begin in spring 2015 and extend into 2016.