Improvements to the U.S. Route 23/I-270 interchange are no longer 20 years down the road.

Improvements to the U.S. Route 23/I-270 interchange are no longer 20 years down the road.

Instead, the already long-awaited project will get started next summer, according to a Sept. 28 announcement from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

The project includes redesigned ramps that would eliminate the weaving patterns of traffic at the entrances and exits, as well as a "trenched"northbound lane on Route 23, north of the outerbelt to Flint Road. The lane will allow northbound traffic to pass under the congested intersections at Crosswoods.

The project has been in the planning stages for nearly a decade, with construction set to begin in 2014.

Last January, ODOT announced that it could not afford to move ahead with that and other projects across the state. The interchange project was broken down into stages, with construction set to begin between 15 and 30 years in the future.

The city, business leaders, residents and legislators then lobbied ODOT to reconsider the project because of the danger presented by the existing traffic configuration and the project's importance to Worthington and the surrounding area.

In 2003, ODOT studied the north-central outerbelt and announced that it was the fourth-most congested and fourth-most dangerous stretch of roadway in Ohio.

The I-270/U.S. Route 23 project was one of five in Ohio that will move ahead with money that became available through "improved in-house efficiencies and an unexpected bump in federal funds," according to a written statement from ODOT.

Local officials welcomed the news.

State Rep. Mike Duffey (R-Worthington) said he had worked tirelessly on the project and was "elated."

"It is huge," Worthington City Council president Lou Goorey said of the announcement.

Council member Bonnie Michael said she was pleased that ODOT had listened to the people of Worthington but noted that the improvements are important for the entire area.

"I'm so excited about this," she said. "We had enough support, and ODOT realized how important it is."