Frustrated with the never-ending construction on state Route 315? You're not alone.
Worthington has been a hotbed of controversy over traffic problems and road construction for more than 60 years.
So put orange traffic cones and reduced speed limits from your mind for a few minutes and coast through Worthington Memory, Worthington Libraries' local history website at worthingtonmemory.org, where you'll learn more about state Route 315's tumultuous beginnings. Worthington Memory incorporates images of historic artifacts, documents and photographs, plus local cemetery records and items from the Worthington News index.
By 1964, when the state highway department proposed tearing up the Olentangy River valley to construct Route 315, tempers already were seething.
Since 1957, the city of Worthington had fended off various proposals to construct the "North Outerbelt" (now Interstate 270) through the blind and deaf school properties, the Chaseland subdivision and what is now the Worthington Estates and Worthingway area south of Wilson Bridge Road.
Anything suggesting even more traffic exiting into downtown Worthington provoked multiple public hearings and Worthington City Council resolutions.
Worthington itself had continued to grow rapidly during the decades after World War II. In 1964 alone, the city had issued 194 building permits for single residences and 11 permits for industrial and commercial buildings. The additional business and residential traffic would only increase pressure on the local traffic system.
When the Ohio Department of Highways proposed running a new freeway from downtown Columbus up the undeveloped natural area of the Olentangy River valley, several organized opposition groups quickly formed, some demanding the valley be saved as parkland.
In 1965, Worthington's city manager presented revised Route 315 plans from the highway department that would rechannel the river away from Medick Estates and the subdivisions to the north and would spare more than 60 acres for parkland along the riverbank. He also pointed out the need for an interchange at the intersection of I-270 and the Route 315 freeway, saying in the Worthington News, "Without the interchange between state Route 315 and (I-270), much of the traffic will pass through Worthington. Greatly increased traffic through the city would have a devastating effect upon Worthington."
Ultimately, fear of overwhelming traffic won out over opposition to altering the natural state of the river valley. In a 6-1 vote, on April 28, 1966, after 18 months of debate and study, Worthington City Council approved an ordinance giving state officials permission to build the freeway through city limits.
The consent ordinance included the requirement that wild areas on the east side of the rechanneled river be preserved as a park.
Worthington would wait another 12 years before construction of the freeway between Bethel and Snouffer roads began. The 315 freeway was completed in 1980, accelerating the migration of development north and northwest and adding even more traffic and construction headaches for Worthington.
Jennifer Maier is a library associate for Worthington Libraries.