The city of Canal Winchester will receive $2.1 million in Ohio Public Works Commission funding to continue improvements on Gender Road, a heavily traveled north-south access point to U.S. Route 33.

Since 2010, the OPWC has provided nearly $12 million to upgrade the road. Phase 4 will center on the busy intersection of Groveport and Gender roads.

The $2.1 million in OPWC funding covers most but not all of the estimated $2.4 million project cost that was included in the city's application for funding that was filed in September 2016. That means the city will have to come up with the remaining $263,000 from other sources.

"We made a commitment to move forward with this, and we're in a position to accommodate that shortfall with existing funding," Canal Winchester Public Service Director Matt Peoples said.

"More and more development is going on outside of town," he said. "This is a major north-south route for the whole area. The amount of traffic that moves through this intersection to access (U.S. Route) 33 is continuing to increase. It's not just Canal Winchester growing, it's the entire area."

The city must have the work plans finalized by the end of June, he said.

Peoples said additional funding could come from the OPWC, depending on how much is used for other local government projects. The OPWC program often includes both grants and loans, with loans being especially attractive because they are zero interest.

The $2.4 million estimated cost for phase 4 is quite large in relation to the city's ordinary roadway capital expenditure of about $550,000 annually, Peoples said, noting that the OPWC declined the city's request for funding in 2014.

"This is the second time we've submitted an application for funding," Peoples said. "We took 2015 off and sharpened our pencils. I actually think we have a better project than we had in 2014, as far as design goes."

According to the city's application to the OPWC, the project will include widening the pavement sections on all approaches to the intersection of Groveport and Gender roads. An additional left-turn lane will be added to the eastbound approach and a right-turn lane will be added to the westbound approach. A through lane will be added on the southbound approach and the southbound right turn lane will be extended.

In addition, the work will include replacing two traffic signals, extending a bike trail, improving storm water drainage, lighting, curb ramps and signage.

Gender Road serves about 35,000 vehicles daily, many of them driven by commuters who live in developing areas of Fairfield and Pickaway counties.

Last year, homeowners along Gender Road expressed concerns about how the project would affect property values. The right of way belongs to the city.

Phase 1 of the overall Gender Road improvements cost about $3 million and involved upgrading the intersection of Winchester and Gender roads. Phase 2 was a $4.5 million joint project with the city of Columbus and phase 3 was a roundabout project that cost about $2.1 million, Peoples said.

"We spoke with city council and decided to move forward, even with the shortfall in funding," he said. "We can use some of our carryover balances to fund any shortfalls.

"We're going to have costs associated with engineering anyway. Construction won't take place until 2018, so we have some time if there is a shortfall in funding," he said.

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