State, local and regional officials are calling it the "Southern Gateway to Central Ohio."

State, local and regional officials are calling it the "Southern Gateway to Central Ohio."

Construction of the new single-point urban interchange at the intersection of Interstate 71 and state Route 665 is complete, and on Thursday, Aug. 16, stakeholders from Grove City, the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, the Ohio Public Works Commission and other entities gathered at the site to commemorate its opening.

Grove City Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said the project had been in the works for close to 12 years.

"This has been a long journey," he said. "It's been one of those projects where perseverance and patience paid off. ... It's taken a lot of people, a lot of organizations, a lot of groups."

The previous interchange originally was built in 1958 and comprised of two lanes of traffic. The new interchange has seven lanes and a multi-use path for bicycle and foot traffic.

Construction of the interchange began in November 2010 and originally wasn't projected to be complete until December 2012.

The project also included two previous phases: the widening of Route 665 from North Meadows Drive to Hoover Road and the relocation of Haughn Road.

The cost of the entire project was about $47.9 million, with about $22 million going to the interchange itself, according to information from ODOT.

According to ODOT, current traffic counts of the bridge are at 12,500 vehicles a day, and that's expected to climb in the next few years. The interchange is designed to accommodate a traffic count of 41,600 vehicles.

"Every improvement we make involves safety and time, and hopefully, that leads to economic development," ODOT Director Jerry Wray said at the opening ceremony. "It's certainly important to the state of Ohio."

Stage said while the primary goal of the project was for improvements, it also will make 2,000 acres more attractive for economic development and will give the area a signature design that "introduces people to central Ohio."

Bob Lawler, interim executive director of MORPC, said it has been an exciting project, especially in light increased funding challenges infrastructure projects are experiencing.

"It took many private and public partners," Lawler said. "Using Grove City's example, we're going to find innovative ways to fund infrastructure projects."

The grand opening of the interchange featured the Central Crossing High School marching band and a crossing of the bridge by a line of vehicles, different stakeholder representatives and a group of cyclists.