As the Ohio Department of Transportation prepares to reconstruct the U.S. 23/Interstate 270 interchange in Worthington later this year, Worthington City Council has given planners the OK to reroute traffic in an effort to relieve congestion in the area.
The 4-0 vote July 1, however, didn't come without concerns from some residents who fear a "major connector" would be cut off for bicyclists and pedestrians.
ODOT wants to reroute northbound traffic on Worthington-Galena Road under the I-270 bridge and restripe the southbound lanes. The variance approved by council will allow the state at its expense to construct barriers and transform pavement between Sancus Boulevard and the intersection at Huntley and Wilson Bridge roads.
The work would leave little space under the bridge for bicyclists and those on foot.
"We haven't played out all the possibilities here, and I think we should request (ODOT) to think harder here and more creatively out of the box," said resident Fred Yeager, who along with some 30 other residents signed a letter to City Manager Matthew Greeson. "We are effectively shutting off access."
Those worries have been taken to ODOT, according to Greeson, who said he had a conference call with planners July 1 prior to the council meeting.
ODOT did not have a representative at the meeting.
"We have to balance a lot of things here," Councilman Scott Myers said. "There are thousands of travelers who use the area. Are we to stop this plan for a few? We are about to spend a considerable amount of dollars, and this is a quick fix to get us through."
The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission last February voted to award $7.09 million to the city for improvements at the intersection of Huntley, Worthington-Galena and Wilson Bridge roads. It is one of 18 regional transportation projects that will receive more than $77 million in federal funds in 2014 and beyond.
Council already has set aside $100,000 to study what improvements would be needed in the area. But the project wouldn't get the green light until 2018.
"We're looking at this as an interim plan," Councilwoman Bonnie Michael said. "I'm excited that we do have something for the long term, but I understand a path to nowhere makes no sense to someone walking or biking in the short term."
Public hearing slated on All-Children's Playground
Council set a public hearing for Monday, July 15, to review plans to replace the All-Children's Playground outside the Worthington Community Center.
This year's capital improvements budget identified funding for the project, which Parks and Recreation Director Darren Hurley expects to cost $175,000 and to be completed in the fall.
"As is usual with playground renovations in Worthington, we are going through a comprehensive process to involve users, residents and the Parks and Recreation Commission," Hurley said in a memo to Greeson. "In addition, we have visited many similar accessible playgrounds around the region to evaluate best practices and play elements desirable for our project."
The original All-Children's Park, which provides an environment for children of all capabilities and limitations, was built in 1992 as a cooperative project with the Rotary Club of Dublin-Worthington.
"We've made various repairs to equipment and are starting to see significant wear in the safety surfacing," Hurley said. "Twenty years has been our typical life span for this type of equipment so we recommend the replacement as scheduled."
In other action, as required by law, council also submitted its 2014 tax budget to the Franklin County auditor.
Used as a planning tool, the tax budget establishes guidelines for the city's spending plan, which is approved by council in December, according to finance director Molly Roberts.
General-fund revenues for 2014 are estimated at $24,360,956, with expenses at $24,818,145. The city is expected to have $5,592,023 in the fund at the end of 2013.
"While the economy is improving, this does show that our budgets are going to be tight for the near future," Myers said.