It has been a decade in the works, but construction finally has started on the $6.9-million Tech Center Drive extension and bridge project.

It has been a decade in the works, but construction finally has started on the $6.9-million Tech Center Drive extension and bridge project.

The city of Gahanna will host an official groundbreaking beginning at 2:30 p.m. Friday, April 1, at the entrance of Pizzurro Park, at South Hamilton Road and Pizzurro Park Drive.

Local and regional government and business leaders will attend to make comments about the immediate and potential economic impact of the project, followed by a ceremonial groundbreaking.

"We've been working on this for 10 years," said Karl Wetherholt, city engineer.

The Tech Center Drive extension will connect the Hamilton Road and I-270 interchange with Gahanna's industrial and commerce area. The bridge going over I-270 will be painted green, featuring the city's name on it.

Wetherholt said the extension would relieve congestion at the Morrison-Hamilton intersection by diverting traffic, benefitting 295 businesses and 5,053 employees. It also will provide a link to the city's bicycle-trail system.

The total project construction cost is $6.9-million, but Gahanna's contribution is $1.8-million, mostly from capital-improvement funds, Wetherholt said.

"That's our match, and there were some water funds in there, too," he said. "Water is an enterprise utility. We have to have a water line in there. The design and environmental work was funded by the city with just over $1-million over five years starting in 2006."

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission's attributable federal funds are $5,194,588, which is 80 percent of the federal highway-eligible portion.

In addition to providing better and shorter access to the commerce area from I-270 and the airport, Wetherholt said, the project will provide access to prime locations for commercial and office development. Those areas include 120 acres in Central Park of Gahanna and 78 acres of vacant land within the I-270 loop, known as the Buckles tract.

"This project will provide access to hundreds of acres of prime land for new development and has been in the planning phases for years," said Anthony Jones, Gahanna's deputy director of planning and development. "Only through the cooperation of local, state and federal agencies has the funding of this project become possible."

He said an analysis was done that indicates 270,000 cars drive by the site daily.

"The sites have direct visibility to I-270," Jones said. "And it's a three-minute drive time from the Columbus airport. It will increase economic success."

Wetherholt said the city had begun investigating alternatives for better connectivity to the industrial area in 1998, and engineering began for Tech Center Drive in 2000.

Seven years later, Gahanna was awarded federal funds for the I-270 ramp modifications, and those improvements were completed in 2010.

The road and bridge project are scheduled to be completed by Oct. 31.