Westerville News & Public Opinion

Officials ready to begin work on Cleveland-270 fix

Widening of Cleveland Ave., new bridge and reconfiguration of ramps planned in two projects

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Backups that can stretch for a mile, while impacting neighboring businesses and roadways, are a regular rush-hour occurrence on Cleveland Avenue at Schrock Road and Interstate 270.

The local bodies overseeing the area -- including the cities of Westerville and Columbus, Franklin County and the Ohio Department of Transportation -- hope to change that with two large-scale traffic projects.

In a charge led by Westerville, Cleveland Avenue would be widened from I-270 to the entrance to Mount Carmel St. Ann's Hospital a half mile to the north, as would Schrock Road, both east and west of the intersection.

An open house was held last week to unveil the preliminary plans for the $13-million overhaul, and public feedback is being sought via the city of Westerville's website, Westerville.org, through the end of the month.

A safety study conducted on the intersection made clear why the overhaul is sorely needed, said Westerville Planning and Development Director Karl Craven.

"The crash patterns at this intersection are higher than the state average, and (the study) determined that the traffic congestion at this intersection leads to some of those accidents," Craven said.

To help traffic flow more smoothly, the preliminary plans call for adding an additional northbound lane on Cleveland Avenue from I-270 to the St. Ann's Cleveland Avenue entrance, as well as a northbound right-turn lane from Cleveland Avenue to eastbound Schrock Road.

A right-turn lane and a through lane also would be added to southbound Cleveland Avenue, as well one left-turn lane and one right-turn lane on westbound Schrock Road.

Eastbound Schrock Road would end up with two right turn lanes, two through lanes and two left turn lanes.

"As you approach the intersection, there's going to be a lot of lanes there," Craven said. "We have a lot of vehicles come through that intersection."

Medians would be added on the north and west legs of the Cleveland Avenue and Schrock Road intersection to restrict traffic turning in and out of businesses, which currently poses a hazard, Craven said.

South of the intersection, ODOT plans to spend $8 million to replace the Cleveland Avenue bridge over I-270 and to reconfigure the on and off ramps to ease traffic flow and make the area safer for pedestrians, said ODOT spokeswoman Nancy Burton.

With the new configuration, traffic exiting the highway in both directions will come to stop lights and turn either north or south, rather than using the free-flowing merge lanes now in place.

Likewise, traffic going northbound on Cleveland Avenue to eastbound 270 will use a traffic light to connect to a ramp, rather than just merging onto the ramp, Burton said.

"Part of this improvement is to help folks so pedestrians and cars aren't playing 'dodge 'em,' " Burton said. "Either vehicles have to stop and pedestrians have the right of way, or vice versa."

Traffic on southbound Cleveland Avenue entering the highway in either direction will continue to use the existing ramp system, though a lane will be added to the westbound on ramp, and there will be a red-green "ramp meter" to regulate traffic merging onto the highway during peak traffic times.

The ODOT project is set to begin in the spring of 2015, as traffic allows, and wrap up in 2016.

Columbus and Westerville are finalizing their agreement for the project, Craven said, but both jurisdictions are set to begin right-of-way acquisition this year. That would continue into next year, when engineering also would begin.

Construction wouldn't start until late in 2016, Craven said.

Also this year, Westerville will continue its search for funding for the project. Already, the city has acquired $10 million in grants for the project on behalf of all of the jurisdictions involved, Craven said, and the city will attempt to secure the additional $3 million needed to cover the project.

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