Worthington City Council is on record opposing widening state Route 161 from Linworth Road to state Route 315, yet it collectively has authorized a preliminary traffic study that could lead to a recommendation to do just that.
Council voted unanimously July 15 to authorize the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission to conduct the traffic study, which will assess growth and traffic forecasts along Route 161, from Sawmill Road to Route 315.
City leaders stressed that the study would result in data upon which further discussions could be based and does not mean the city would agree to the widening of the roadway in Worthington.
Several concerned residents attended the council meeting.
"The public really needs to understand this is just for data," said Kim Nixon-Bell, who lives in the Linworth area.
She reminded council members that in past discussions of the widening and commercialization of the roadway, it became known as "the Bethelization of Route 161."
Council approved a resolution in 1996 to oppose the widening of Route 161 within the city. That followed a study that recommended five lanes from Linworth Road to Route 315.
Residents also included in the city charter a requirement that any changes to the Village Green be approved by six of the seven council members. That was a safeguard against the widening of Granville Road through Old Worthington, council member Bonnie Michael said.
The potential widening is back before the public because of several pending developments along Route 161 in the Linworth area.
Columbus has approved an apartment complex with about 300 units to be built just west of the railroad tracks.
The Segna site, immediately west of Linworth Road, has been proposed for redevelopment as a shopping center. The city has taken the first step toward annexing the Segna property from Perry Township.
The owners of the United Dairy Farmers store on the northeast corner of Route 161 and Linworth Road have approached the city about expanding and redeveloping the store. It would purchase the abandoned bank building next door for the expansion, City Manager Matt Greeson.
Also, residents along Route 161 recently organized to make sure a proposed paved recreation path is built on the south side of the roadway, not the north.
In April, Perry Township hosted a multijurisdictional meeting to discuss the proposed developments and their impact on traffic. Worthington, Perry Township, Columbus, the Ohio Department of Transportation and MORPC were all represented at the meeting.
It was decided that more information about existing congestion and projections for future traffic conditions was needed. Further discussions led to an informal acceptance of MORPC's proposal to conduct an initial planning-level traffic study, Greeson said.
The study will look at traffic counts and level of service along the Route 161 corridor now and in 2035.
The $43,000 cost of the study will be shared by Columbus, which will pay half, and Perry Township and Worthington, each paying 25 percent, or roughly $11,000 each.