New details released by the Ohio Department of Transportation about a planned Interstate 71 interchange in Berkshire Township reveal the project's increasing scope and years-long timeline.

The project, organized by ODOT, would add a new interchange to I-71 south of the existing interchange at U.S. Route 36 and state Route 37.

The existing interchange already was at capacity and regularly saw congestion even before the Tanger Factory Outlet Center opened last year.

A population explosion in the eastern half of Delaware County necessitated a massive transportation fix, officials said.

Rather than a costly, time-consuming revamp of the existing interchange, ODOT has decided to build the new interchange. The plan involves the creation of Sunbury Parkway, which will connect to routes 36/37 and Africa Road, eventually becoming a seven-lane roadway.

The plan has been in its public outreach stage since early 2016, and more planned meetings will update residents about a recently completed environmental assessment of the project -- an all-encompassing study specifying plans and outlining various effects.

The environmental assessment lays out the wide-ranging nature of the project, which has grown into a $162 million behemoth consisting of six phases over 17 years with funding coming from developers Northgate Land Company LLC, the village of Sunbury and state and federal cash.

Sunbury Village Administrator Allen Rothermel said a "memorandum of agreement" is in the works that would commit the village to the project. He said it will be a major boost to the village, "no question about it," and the key will be to collaborate throughout the process.

"It has different consequences, depending on who you talk to," he said.

"From the state's perspective, it gets traffic off 36/37 and creates relief for a congested traffic situation. From the village's standpoint, it provides a key access point into the village and that certainly has potential for the community and development associated all along it."

According to language in the assessment, the project is scheduled to begin in 2018, and the six phases would not be entirely complete until 2035.

The six phases currently being discussed are:

* Phase A: Partial construction of the interchange and Sunbury Parkway from just west of I-71 to Wilson Road. This portion of Sunbury Parkway will have three lanes in each direction. Construction of Phase A is estimated to begin in 2018.

* Phase B: Construction of three lanes of Sunbury Parkway from 3 B's & K Road to the portion of Sunbury Parkway constructed in Phase A, just west of I-71. Construction of Phase B is estimated to begin in 2021.

* Phase C: Completion of the connection of Sunbury Parkway from the 36/37/Africa Road intersection to the I-71 interchange. Constructing this part of Sunbury Parkway will require relocating Africa Road and 36/37 as a "four-legged intersection" with Sunbury Parkway, making Sunbury Parkway the through east-west movement. Construction of Phase C is estimated to begin in 2025.

* Phase D: Construction of one additional lane in each direction within the median of Sunbury Parkway from Wilson Road to Galena Road and adding additional turn lanes. Construction of Phase D is estimated to begin in 2032.

* Phase E: Construction of one additional lane in each direction on Sunbury Parkway between the 36/37/Africa Road intersection and the relocated 3 B's & K Road intersection. Phase E is estimated to begin in 2033.

* Phase F: Construction of one additional lane in each direction within the median of Sunbury Parkway from Galena Road east to 36/37. Construction of Phase F is estimated to begin in 2035.

ODOT will hold a public hearing to discuss the plans from 5 to 7 p.m. July 11 at Northgate Church, 7097 E. state Route 37.

For more information and the full report, visit www.dot.state.oh.us.

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