Worthington News

Stretch of Route 161 marked for MORPC traffic study

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Last week's announcement of a traffic study along a stretch of state Route 161 was hailed as a victory of sorts by a leader of the group opposed to a shared-use path being located on the north side of the road.

A Perry Township trustee, however, said it had more to do with development in the area.

"The traffic study actually originated not as a result of the shared-use path," said Perry Trustee Chet J. Chaney.

"It resulted as a result all of the development projects that are happening along 161," Chaney said.

"It's a rural road trying to serve an urban population."

"Our group would like to claim this as a victory, not because it may delay the path but because it's a step toward a safer path," Stan Apseloff of the group Safety First 161 wrote in an email.

"We have been pushing for a traffic study and a safety study because we believe that these will show that the south side of SR-161 is a better location for a shared-use path than the north side."

The study of traffic between Linworth and Sawmill roads will be conducted by personnel from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission at the request of officials from Columbus, Worthington and Perry Township, with participation from Sharon Township, Franklin County and the Ohio Department of Transportation, according to the announcement from Marie Keister, public involvement lead for the shared-use project.

Keister is with Engage Public Affairs LLC, a public relations firm hired for the project.

In her announcement, Keister wrote that the study would:

* Quantify current and future traffic volumes, accounting for the proposed new development at the former Segna Volvo site, the United Dairy Farmers' expansion at state Route 161 and Linworth Road, and other possible future developments.

* Analyze how different infrastructure improvements could alleviate congestion throughout the state Route 161 corridor from state Route 315 to Sawmill Road

"Without that data, we will not get to the stage of developing scenarios that would allow the partners to make some decisions ... ," Chaney said.

"It's a first step," he said.

"It's a small step but it's definitely a necessary step for us to move forward."

Worthington and Perry Township officials approved funding for the traffic study July 15, according to Keister.

Columbus City Council was to have voted on funding July 22, and Chaney said last week he was certain it would sail through.

"It's a true partnership in that sense, financially as well as coordinating information and so forth," Chaney said.

"We're looking forward to developing that study with our partners.

"What we hope to achieve is a baseline of information regards to what's there as far as traffic, land use, current development, future development of the area, which will give us a much better understanding as we move toward the next phase," Chaney said.

That next phase, "which would be more of an engineering study, which ... (we) would be able to put together scenarios that would make sense for the corridor, not only now but for the future."

"The outcome of the traffic study will affect whether or not the city of Columbus decides to move forward with the current shared-use path project along state Route 161," Keister wrote.

"If a comprehensive state Route 161 infrastructure project is programmed, pedestrian and bicycle accommodation will be included in that project," she wrote.

"While the traffic study proceeds this fall, the city of Columbus project team working on the proposed shared-use path will continue to conduct additional environmental analysis as originally planned," Keister wrote.

"This work, along with the traffic study, will help generate the information needed to provide well-considered responses to comments and questions we have received from the public, and more fully inform the decision-making process.

"The outcome of both efforts will help the city of Columbus decide whether to move the shared-use path into the final, detailed design stage."

"I don't know what to make of that," Apseloff said in an interview.

"We are still interested in having a path on the south side as opposed to the north side, and we believe that the process now is an opportunity to rethink everything that's gong on, but clearly the south side has much more available land than the north side and therefore it is perhaps possible to plan for the path and put it far enough away from the roadway it won't matter if it gets widened," Apseloff said.

"The road widening is not going to happen anytime soon, but the path could happen sooner rather than later."

If government officials "don't start having substantive discussions about the (state Route 161) corridor, it may never get fixed at all," Chaney said.

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