The city of Westerville will have help in funding the second phase of major improvements to South State Street.

The city of Westerville will have help in funding the second phase of major improvements to South State Street.

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission announced last week that the city will receive nearly $8.4 million toward the $10.7-million overhaul of State Street north and south of Schrock Road.

Through the grant, the city will receive $2.3 million from the Ohio Public Works Commission, along with a 25-year, interest-free loan for $6.1 million, said Westerville Planning and Development Director Karl Craven.

The loan will be repaid largely with funds raised through a tax-incentive-financing agreement for the South State Street corridor, which collects property taxes from property owners that have undergone recent improvements, including the Westerville Square Shopping Center, Westerville Plaza, Wendy's and City Barbeque, Craven said.

The project will involve a major upgrade of South State from "coffee shop to coffee shop" south and north of Schrock -- approximately from Tim Horton's, 772 S. State St., to Starbucks, 533 S. State St. -- to match the recently completed reconstruction of the roadway farther south to Interstate 270. It also will rebuild Schrock Road on both sides of State Street, from Otterbein Avenue to Charring Cross Drive.

During this year's construction season, the overhead utility lines in the area will be buried, as they were in the State Street overhaul south to I-270. The city also will complete engineering work and begin acquiring property needed for the right of way for the roadway reconstruction, Craven said.

Next year, the roadway will be rebuilt, with right turn lanes added from eastbound Schrock Road to southbound State; and a northbound right-turn lane from State onto Schrock.

Brick medians will be added at the State-Schrock intersection, and light fixtures and landscaping will be upgraded.

The improvements will be complemented by the separate project to reconstruct Schrock Road to the east, between Pointview Drive and Hempstead Road, planned for this summer, Craven said.

Following an administrative process, the city should receive the grant funds at the start of the state's new fiscal year, in July, Craven said, and the money should be used quickly to reimburse engineering costs and pay for right of way acquisition.

A future phase of the State Street project will bury utility lines and make landscaping improvements north to Walnut Street.

The city had planned to finance the "coffee shop to coffee shop" section of the project with bonds, Craven said, and the grant will allow city leaders to decide whether to assume that planned debt to pay for other projects outlined in the five-year capital-improvement plan.

That plan is re-evaluated by city staff and council each spring.

"This would allow the city to reconsider the debt issuance for something else, somewhere else," Craven said. "With this in mind now, I'm thinking there will be some proposals by the city manager's office, if there's (a project) they want to advance or if there's some debt that they want to redirect for another project."