An estimated $25 million effort to relieve congestion at the busy Delaware intersection known as the Point took a key step forward ahead of the year's end.

Delaware City Council in late November appropriated about $985,000 to pay Columbus-based engineering firm Gannett Fleming for initial design work on the project to improve the intersection of U.S. Route 36 and state Route 37 on the city's east side. The Ohio Department of Transportation will reimburse the city for 90 percent of the project's design costs, which eventually are expected to top $3.3 million.

In order to widen the roads, also known as Central Avenue and William Street, at the intersection, workers will need to remove and replace an existing railroad bridge with a longer span. City Engineer Bill Ferrigno previously has called improving the Point the "single most-critical transportation need in the city."

Ferrigno said city residents will have a chance to give feedback on the plan next year after initial design work is completed.

"The fall is when we'll have enough information to go to the public with alternatives and say, 'This is what the project probably looks like; please give us your feedback on that,' " he said.

The multimillion-dollar cost of the project has led the city to seek multiple funding partners.

Grants from the Federal Highway Administration, the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission are expected to cover about 75 percent of the project's cost. Even with the outside funding, the city likely will need to come up with about $6.2 million.

City officials have discussed seeking additional grants for the project, as well as requesting financial assistance from Delaware County.

City Manager Tom Homan said Norfolk Southern Corp., which owns the bridge, cannot be compelled to contribute financially to the project.

"That's something obviously people get confused and upset about," he said. "It's a railroad bridge. It looks like it's in terrible condition. (People say), 'Why don't they just repair it?' "

Shane Campbell, a project manager with Gannett Fleming, said Norfolk Southern holds "all the cards" in the situation.

"(The bridge) does look like it's deteriorating, but in their quote-unquote standards, it is acceptable," he said.

Campbell said the corporation's reluctance to replace the bridge leaves the local, state and federal governments to pick up the tab if they want to decrease congestion at the intersection.

"You're at a point where you need to widen (the roads), and the only way you can widen is to replace that bridge," he said.

tgallick@thisweeknews.com

@twgallick