There are numerous schedules that remain to be set, but preliminary construction work for $14 million in enhancements to Refugee Road could begin as soon as next month.

In recent years, Pickerington city officials have set sights on improving traffic safety and flow along Refugee Road, a major east-west arterial in the heart of the city that intersects with Hill Road (state Route 256).

Those efforts got a major boost in recent years when the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission became involved, designating Refugee improvements as a regional project and agreeing to chip in approximately $9 million to make them a reality.

As September nears, the project is inching closer. Pickerington officials said they expect to have a preconstruction meeting with ODOT this month, and preliminary work to relocate or install new utility features such as storm-water and sanitary sewer lines could begin before Oct. 1.

"Some utility work and easement purchases have already happened," said Frank Wiseman, Pickerington's interim-city manager.

"There's been a contract to (George J.) Igle & Co. for preliminary construction to start as soon as this month," he said.

Major construction for the road will happen next year.

The city will contribute approximately $5 million for the "comprehensive makeover" of the Refugee Road corridor, from roughly 256 to Fuller's Way.

The work will include:

* additional lanes on Refugee from the east corporation limit to the Refugee-Fullers Way intersection;

* an additional center turn lane/median from the Refugee-Fullers Way intersection to the west corporation limit near Wheatfield Drive;

* curb and gutter installation to improve drainage;

* Pickerington's "first modern roundabout" at Refugee-Fullers 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 Refugee Road as well as median installations throughout the corridor.

"It is going to be a five-lane road from 256 to Fuller's Way," Wiseman said.

"At Fuller's Way there's going to be a roundabout, and then it goes down to a three-lane highway from Fuller's Way to the Columbus border."

Wiseman and Pickerington Service Director Ed Drobina said the Refugee work is being driven by traffic, which now averages more than 16,000 vehicles daily.

"It's an extremely busy street now, and it's just an old two-lane road," Wiseman said.

"It needed to be upgraded and it needs to be able to handle more traffic than it is doing now."

Drobina said natural gas, power and telecommunications lines already have been relocated ahead of this fall's expected work.

Timelines for the preliminary construction work will be set when ODOT and city officials set a schedule in the next few weeks.

After that, waterline work, construction of a retention pond and the relocation of a sewer line will take place.

Traffic also will be rerouted onto temporary roadways on the stretch of Refugee west of Route 256 for permit utility work to take place.

"They have to maintain traffic on Refugee Road in both directions," Drobina said.

"There may be some temporary one-lane (periods), but it will just be very temporary.

"That's why they'll be building a temporary roadway on the north side of Refugee when they're doing certain work," Drobina said.

"Then they'll build a temporary lane on the south side when they're doing certain work."

Additional details about the project -- both the preliminary work and the major construction slated for next year -- are expected to be completed after the preconstruction meeting with ODOT.

The overall project could be finished by late 2019, depending on weather and unforseen construction factors.

When its completed, Wiseman and Drobina said, the project should help move local traffic more safely and efficiently, as well as motorists who are driving through Pickerington.

That's why, Wiseman said, ODOT and MORPC have agreed to take active roles in planning and funding.

"To me it becomes really evident, if MORPC and ODOT are both into the picture of the project," Wiseman said, "traffic has driven the project.

"It definitely needs improving and it's a regional project. It shows the significance of Refugee Road coming into Pickerington and hitting 256, going either to (Interstate) 70 or down to (U.S. Route) 33. It is a major arterial for the city."