Pickerington officials said they are optimistic the city's next large-scale public improvement project -- the $13.5 million Refugee Road Enhancement plan -- is on schedule to start the construction phase by Labor Day 2018.

The city's strategy is to significantly improve traffic flow and safety in the Refugee Road corridor as well as to pro-actively prepare for future development, said Scott Tourville, city engineer.

"We're able to make these improvements in advance of all the remaining vacant land developing, allowing us to be prepared for that rather than react to it," Tourville said.

A tight project schedule demands the city either reach an agreement or file for eminent domain regarding 18 property owners for right-of-way acquisition by Jan. 1, 2018. Pickerington City Council is in the process of approving such legislation to allow the city to keep the project on schedule.

"We expect to reach an agreement with (owners of most of) most of the parcels before we have to file court documents, but we need to make those filings in order to keep the project on schedule and maintain our grant commitment timelines," Tourville said.

He said 16 of the property owners are "companies or corporations."

Pickerington City Law Director Phil Hartmann advised City Council's finance committee on Oct. 18 that the city will negotiate with the property owners right up "until the end of the year."

The project's $13.5 million price tag encompasses design, property acquisition and construction costs. Tourville said utility relocation is expected to begin in early 2018 with the actual roadway construction pegged for sometime near Labor Day 2018.

"We expect roadway construction to last through 2019," he said.

The project will be a comprehensive makeover of the Refugee Road corridor that will include:

* Additional lanes on Refugee from the east corporation limit to the Refugee/Fuller's Way intersection.

* Additional center turn lane/median from the Refugee/Fuller's Way intersection to the west corporation limit near Wheatfield Drive;

* Curb and gutter installation to improve drainage.

* Pickerington's "first modern roundabout" at Refugee/Fuller's Way.

* A new bike path on the north side of Refugee Road to provide access from state Route 256 to the Blacklick Creek Greenway Trail.

* A new sidewalk on the south side of Refugee Road.

* Resurfacing of the entirety of Refugee Road as well as median installations throughout the corridor;

Tourville said the new bike path will connect the Blacklick Creek Trail through the Farmbrook Estates subdivision.

There will be lane closures resulting in two-way, one-lane traffic during the construction process, however, city officials anticipate most of the work will be done during overnight hours.

The Refugee Road Enhancement Plan is a coordinated effort between the city, the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

The bulk of the costs of the project, about $10 million to $10.5 million, will be funded through federal funds. The city's local share is fixed at $2.5 million to $2.7 million, paid for through a tax-increment financing program on the OhioHealth Medical Campus property on Refugee Road.

On Oct. 3, City Council voted 6-1 to submit an additional grant application to seek funding of $400,000 from the Ohio Public Work Commission to help reduce the city's share of the overall construction costs.