The Ohio Department of Transportation expects to resume public meetings this summer on a new Interstate 71 interchange south of U.S. Route 36 and state Route 37 in Berkshire Township.

If the project moves along as planned, it is expected to cost an estimated $54 million. Construction could begin as early as 2018, depending on ODOT scheduling and funding.

Spokeswoman Nancy Burton said this summer's meetings would be more formal than previous ones, which began in early 2016 and ran through October. In future meetings, she said, official recordings will be kept and people will be able to submit comments. These types of meetings are required for large ODOT projects.

The interchange is meant to alleviate traffic on the current interchange at routes 36 and 37. Traffic continues to increase in the area, especially after the recent addition of the Tanger Factory Outlet Center.

Plans for the new interchange have been in the works for more than a year. After the first public meeting, ODOT selected a route that would connect the interchange west to the intersection of Africa Road and routes 36 and 37. The project also would construct a new road, called Sunbury Parkway, that would stretch to the other side of routes 36 and 37.

Since the October meetings, ODOT has not released any new information. Burton said the department is in the process of preparing "environmental documents" and won't have anything new to share in the near future.

"We have to get environmental clearance to proceed, and that's what we're in the throes of," she said.

In October, ODOT District 6 Deputy Director Jack Marchbanks said the department would spend time in "detailed design of this new five-lane road including exact alignment location," and Burton said that "detailed design" process still is in the works.

For more information and updates on the project, visit dot.state.oh.us.

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