Kenneth Cohen doesn't think much of Bethel Road when it comes to one of his favorite activities.

"One of the worst roads in Columbus for bicycles," he said.

Cohen was a founding board member of the advocacy organization Yay Bikes! but now is just a member who works part-time at the RideHome shop in Worthington.

He was reacting to the announcement from city officials that a small portion of that busy street will be getting a shared-use path that will connect with the popular Olentangy Trail.

The new path along the north side of Bethel Road west to Olentangy River Road will be part of an overall project that will see the widening of a narrow section of the Olentangy Trial, according to Brad Westall, greenways planner for the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department.

The widening of the short stretch between Antrim Park and Bethel Road is an area where bike rider counts exceed 300,000 a year, Westall said.

"It really is the narrowest of the narrow," he added.

"The one issue that we want to solve here, and have heard about for many years is, 'Can you widen that section, give us more space?'"

The widening, which will start at Antrim Park and go south to Bethel Road, will make a section that's currently 8 to 9 feet wide 12 to 14 feet.

"In this type of congested use area, we should be 12 to 14 feet wide to handle that kind of use so that people aren't pushed off on the side," Westall said.

In addition, a shared-use path two-thirds of a mile long will go west along Bethel Road to Olentangy River Road, providing access to the COTA Park & Ride facility at Anheuser Busch Park.

"It offers an access point," self-described "enthusiastic" bike-trail user Cohen said. "Offering access to business districts is great, so this would allow people on the trail to get up to Bethel Road, and there's currently no way to do that."

Construction is scheduled to start in spring 2019, according to Westall.

Plans are being finalized, but the estimated cost is $2.7 million, he said, with a Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission federal trail program picking up 80 percent and the city the balance.

The project should take about a year to complete, Westall said.

"We're not going to close the Olentangy Trail while we we're widening it, while it's under construction," Westall said. "This is all on public right of way. We'd don't need to acquire property.

"However, it's a tricky project because we'll be crossing (state route) 315 on the Bethel Road bridge, so there's a lot of delicate planning on that," Westall said.

A tunnel will be part of the project, taking the trail under the northbound route-315 ramp.

"That's a very busy intersection; you've got people entering and exiting a freeway," Westall said. "So the way to do that is to provide a means that keeps motorists and bicyclists separate."

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1