Worthington city officials are asking state transportation officials to reconsider plans to delay the north-central outerbelt project by as much as 20 years.

Worthington city officials are asking state transportation officials to reconsider plans to delay the north-central outerbelt project by as much as 20 years.

The Ohio Department of Transportation announced last week that construction on improvements to the interchange at I-270, state Route 315 and U.S. Route 23 would not get started until 2027, with the final stage not to begin until 2032.

The project has been in the planning stages for a decade and was set to get started in 2014 and take three years to complete.

It was part of a long list of projects that would be pushed back statewide.

"The list shows an unbelievable delay in the project," Worthington city manager Matt Greeson said. "It is really hard to believe it will be delayed that long."

ODOT staff on Jan. 17 made a presentation to the Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC), showing the delayed dates. A transportation financial crisis facing Ohio was cited as the cause.

"For far too long, previous administrations have added more and more to the list of TRAC projects, knowing that there were more projects than funds available," ODOT director and TRAC chairman Jerry Wray said in an ODOT press release.

ODOT has seen its revenue shrink over the past several years as fuel consumption has decreased, the release stated. ODOT is completely funded with state and federal motor-fuel tax.

Worthington officials said they could see the problem coming and thus began a letter-writing campaign in December.

The interchange improvements are essential to alleviating safety concerns, Worthington City Council president Lou Goorey stated in a letter to ODOT.

"These projects are designed to address the inadequate capacity along this stretch of I-270 that results in a high number of vehicle crashes," he wrote to ODOT in a Dec. 13 letter.

In 2004, ODOT identified the interchange as the fourth-most congested and highest-crash area in the state. Between 2000 and 2003, the interchange saw an average of 1.5 crashes per day.

Moreover, traffic volume has increased more than 20 percent since that time, according to ODOT's website.

Council member Bonnie Michael said she was frustrated and disappointed with the ODOT announcement.

"Taking 32 years to have an interchange redone is, to me, sad," she said.

The amount of time the interchange would be under construction, thus tying up traffic, also has increased. With the first stage to begin in 2027 and the third in 2032, the area would be under construction for six years or longer.

"It is really going to cause a lot of turmoil to the Worthington area," Michael said.

ODOT is expected to hold a public-input phase in the coming months, and Worthington leaders will encourage everyone to get involved.

Worthington has worked closely with ODOT to design an attractive entryway as part of the project. By the time work begins, the planning probably will be outdated, Michael said.

The project includes the redesign of I-270, from I-71 to Route 315. New ramps were to be built to eliminate the dangerous merging patterns that exist there.

The plans call for a new bridge over the outerbelt, complete with Worthington-style signs and features. A pedestrian pathway would lead from Worthington to the Crosswoods area.

Route 23 north of the outerbelt would be widened, with one lane of northbound traffic in a trench to avoid traffic signals, thus facilitating traffic movement.

Southbound on North High Street, lanes would be added and the roadway leading to Wilson Bridge Road improved.

City manager Matt Greeson said plans to encourage the redevelopment of Wilson Bridge Road would continue because it is a long-term project. The proposed delay likely would undermine economic development, though.

"We want that interchange not only for traffic safety, but for the infusion into our economy," Greeson said.

Tom Carter, who purchased the mall at Route 23 and I-270 a year ago, said he was disappointed but did not expect the delay to hurt business at the Shops at Worthington Place.