The construction contract has been awarded, and work is about to begin on the Interstate 270/U.S. Route 23 interchange project.

The construction contract has been awarded, and work is about to begin on the Interstate 270/U.S. Route 23 interchange project.

"We should be ready to proceed this month," said Thom Slack, planning and engineering administrator for the Ohio Department of Transportation's District 6.

The $71 million contract was awarded two weeks ago to Ruhlin/Igel, two contractors who will work together, Slack said.

An official groundbreaking ceremony is being planned for later this month, he said.

The project has been in the planning stages since 2003. It is set for completion by summer 2016, with most of the work to be done by Christmas 2015.

Construction is disruptive, but the roadwork will be done as safely as possible and North High Street will remain open in both directions during the day throughout construction, said Ferzan Ahmed, ODOT District 6 deputy director.

Last week, he thanked Gov. John Kasich for the recently approved transportation and jobs plan, which allows for several central Ohio road projects to move ahead. He also thanked Worthington's state representative, Republican Mike Duffey, for his part in passing the plan and for working to move ahead the I-270/Route 23 interchange project.

"This will address one of the most congested, safety-related projects in the area," Ahmed said.

In 2003, based on its own studies, ODOT announced that the interchange was the fourth-most congested/high-crash area in Ohio. Traffic volumes have increased more than 20 percent since then, according to ODOT.

The original interchange ramps were built in the 1960s and were not meant to serve the volumes of vehicles that pass over them, according to ODOT materials.

To increase safety and relieve congestion, the newly designed interchange will include two fewer loop ramps and will encourage the flow of traffic through and out of the area.

The ramp from eastbound I-270 to northbound Route 23 and the ramp from westbound I-270 to southbound Route 23 will be more direct routes, with traffic signals to control access to Route 23.

Also, Route 23 north of I-270 to Northwoods Boulevard will be widened, with two northbound lanes built beneath the surface, from the interstate to north of Flint Road.

The "trenched" lanes will allow traffic to flow unimpeded through the busy intersections at Campus View and at Flint. A local access lane will be maintained.

Trenched lanes basically are recessed lanes similar to a tunnel with no top.

Slack said these would be the first "trenches" in Ohio.