Worthington leaders still are exploring funding options for the Northeast Gateway intersection project, which isn't likely to begin construction until 2020.

The Northeast Gateway is the moniker city leaders have chosen for the renovation and redesign for the intersection of Sancus Boulevard and Worthington-Galena, East Wilson Bridge and Huntley roads on the north side of the city, just south of Interstate 270.

In January 2016, Worthington City Council approved a plan to transform the congested crossroads into two intersections slightly east and west of the current location.

At its final meeting before summer recess in July, City Council approved another request for outside funding, permitting an application for a grant or low-interest loan from the Ohio Public Works Commission. The amount of the grant or loan is not yet known.

The city has secured about $10.8 million in federal funds, largely through the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. The federal funding comes with a commitment of a 20 percent match, leaving the city with more than $2 million to spend on the project.

The entire project is estimated to cost $13 million; a more precise figure is expected to be available after design and right-of-way acquisition are finished, according to City Manager Matt Greeson.

The magnitude of the project means Greeson and his staff will continue to look for funding sources as engineering firm EMH&T works through the design phase. Extra funding would help protect the city against the project coming in at a higher cost than anticipated, Greeson said.

"Because we're still in design and we're evaluating the necessary right-of-way acquisition, some of those (cost) estimates will need to be refined as we move along," he said.

Greeson said the renovation would be well worth it.

"This project is at an important gateway to our community – that's why we call it the Northeast Gateway project," he said. "It provides access to two important corridors in our community ... and it's aimed at reducing congestion and significantly improving bicycle and pedestrian access in that area, which is devoid of most of that kind of access right now."

Dan Whited, the city's service and engineering director, is serving as project manager and an all-hands-on-deck approach to the project means he can focus on the less-than-glamorous portion of the work.

Part of the difficulty of the project is its proximity to homes, businesses, utility lines and railroad tracks, he said, and navigating those challenges is critical to the project's success.

"My focus is utility relocation, potential right-of-way acquisition and easements and those sorts of things that need to come together for the long-term ... so you don't run into issues in the long run," Whited said.

Several private and commercial spaces are within the area the city would need to acquire as public rights of way and the process of that acquisition has been seen as difficult, he said.

But Whited and Greeson said they are confident the property owners have been kept in the loop throughout the process, and Whited said he expects the acquisitions to go smoothly, whenever they begin.

"I think it will definitely be manageable," he said. "It will require time and commitment, just like anything else."

By the time construction is likely to begin in 2020, the city and other organizations will have millions of dollars and countless hours invested into the project, but the collaboration is necessary for a redesign that will help Worthington and parts beyond, Greeson said.

"We think this will have a really positive impact on not only the Worthington community, but on central Ohio," he said. "So much traffic flows through there that serves not only our businesses and travelers, but people who are going through that whole Sancus-Huntley corridor."

aking@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekAndrew