The project is about three years away, but the Ohio Department of Transportation recently approved $5 million for preliminary engineering studies for improvements planned at the Interstate 71 and state Route 36 interchange.

The project is about three years away, but the Ohio Department of Transportation recently approved $5 million for preliminary engineering studies for improvements planned at the Interstate 71 and state Route 36 interchange.

The nine-member Transportation Review Advisory Council, which assists in developing a project- selection process for ODOT's largest investments, approved the expenditure and raised the interchange project to "tier II status," a step away from the "tier I status" needed before construction can start.

Delaware County economic development director Gus Comstock said part of the funding would be used for an environmental impact study. The research is part of a series of steps necessary for the Federal Highway Administration to approve the project.

Comstock said the three-year timeline could be shorter if a developer with significant job potential for the area expresses an interest in the project.

According to meeting minutes from a roundtable project discussion conducted last month by ODOT, a project consultant should be named by September and will work toward determining a preferred interchange location by March 2012.

TRAC will make a future funding request for construction funding. The total project cost is $114.1 million, of which $65.2 million would be for an interchange feeder road renovation. The county would fund that portion, which would widen the roads affected by increased traffic flow.

Comstock said funding sources for the $48.9 million for the interchange itself haven't yet been determined.

ODOT also plans safety improvements for U.S. 36 at Interstate 71 for spring of 2012. ODOT District 6 communications manager Nancy Burton said the area has been a safety concern because of the volume of traffic and the number of businesses there. Between 2008 and 2009 the interchange had 196 traffic crashes, 50 percent of which were rear-end accidents.

The project would add turn lanes to both north and southbound exit ramps, providing double-left and double-right turn lanes. An eastbound U.S. 36 to I-71 south ramp and widened on-ramp would be constructed.

The U.S. 36 bridge over I-71 would be restriped to provide two through lanes in each direction and side by side left turn lanes.

Turn-lane extensions through the ramp intersections would provide additional space for vehicles to be stored.

Curbing would be constructed to prohibit left turns from driveways to create right in and right out drives.

Pavement also would be resurfaced.