Construction on Hilliard's Triangle Project is expected to start in the spring and be completed in the fall of 2011.

Construction on Hilliard's Triangle Project is expected to start in the spring and be completed in the fall of 2011.

The project consists of installing two roundabouts on Main Street at the intersections of Cemetery and Scioto Darby roads.

At city council's Jan. 18 planning, projects and services committee meeting, public service director Clyde Seidle said the single holdout on agreeing to a temporary easement for relocating American Electric Power's utility lines along the three roadways was the Donatos restaurant on Main Street.

"When the appraisal review is done, we'll be negotiating with them, but given the timing on this project, at some point we're going to have to say we need to appropriate to have this final piece of right-of-way so we can proceed with construction," Seidle said.

"This owner has expressed an interest in negotiating," law director Pam Fox said. Donatos acquired a second parcel of land at the end of last year, she said.

"They had a lot of changes going on and they wanted to deal with all of this as one action," Fox said.

Committee members Jim Ashenhurst, Albert Iosue and chairman Dan Nichter gave the appropriations ordinance a positive recommendation and it was introduced at council's Jan. 25 meeting.

Transportation engineer Letty Schamp said AEP required acquisition of its own easements to relocate transmission lines and poles, which is typical in such projects. Last fall, the city took over the acquisition process from AEP.

After the land is appraised, an offer is made to the property owner. If the offer isn't accepted after 30 days, the city can file with Franklin County courts and deposit the appraised amount, which the owner can withdraw.

"We continue to negotiate with them," Schamp said, "but what it does is it gives us the right to be on their land."

Schamp said once council approves the easement appropriation, AEP can begin relocating its lines in March. Also in March, construction bids will be opened, with a selection made in April. Construction preparations will start in May.

Local motorists can expect road closures once school ends in June as the first roundabout is placed at Main and Cemetery.

"North-south traffic will be maintained throughout the project the whole way," Schamp said, "but east-west traffic on either Cemetery or Scioto Darby will be closed at one time or the other. It will definitely be more congested."

In the fall, construction of the Main Street and Scioto Darby Road roundabout is expected to begin.

"I don't envision that intersection being completed in the fall," Schamp said. "If we get a good contractor and good weather, it's possible that it could be built, but I doubt it."

Commuters and businesses will be affected by the construction.

"Anytime there's construction near your front door, businesses are concerned about that," Schamp said, adding, "We will be maintaining access to all the buildings at all the times."
Signage will direct people to specific businesses, she said.

"There's going to be some serious gnashing of teeth going on," Ashenhurst said. The Triangle Project "is going to be a year-and-a-half in the making. There's just no good way to do it. It's going to be inconvenient. The pizza place (and other businesses in the area are) obviously going to be affected."

"The best thing we can tell residents is to have patience, because it is the major intersection in Hilliard, and it's going to get worse because of the construction before it gets better," Seidle said.

Officials say the project will result in a widening of the roads, but not as much as there would be with a traditional traffic signal.

"Right now, there's pretty much a through-lane in each direction, and what we're going to be providing is two through lanes through the intersections in each direction for the most part," Schamp said. "The nice thing about the roundabouts is you don't need to widen out for all those additional turn lanes."

Despite being new to most Americans, roundabouts are considered to be safer for drivers and pedestrians, transportation officials say. Vehicles travel at a slower rate of speed, but the flow of traffic is smoother because drivers aren't stopping at traffic signals. In addition, roundabouts don't use energy - an advantage during power outages.

Hilliard already has five roundabouts.

"Anytime you have something new, there are a few people who are skeptical," Seidle said. "These are designed to move traffic through high-volume areas in an efficient, safe manner."

"We're positioning ourselves right now to have a very orderly and smooth east-west and north-south traffic patterns for the city," Ashenhurst said. "The long-term prognosis is good."

Seidle said The Triangle Project "has been around since the early 1990s." Schamp said it will cost $11-million, with $7.2-million going toward construction.