Securing money to maintain an upgraded intersection at Interstate 270 and West Broad Street is the final roadblock to revamping a key West-Side gateway.

Construction funding for the estimated $719,000 upgrade will be paid for through a cooperative agreement among Franklin County, Franklin and Prairie townships, the city of Columbus, the Ohio Department of Transportation, Hollywood Casino Columbus, Haydocy Automotive and Weston Vision Group.

Plans include planting wildflowers and other landscaping around the interchange, installing large sculptures of 9 to 13 feet in height, updating welcome signs and installing colorful lighting in the I-270 underpass.

Still to be hammered out is who will pay the estimated $36,000 for annual maintenance -- for such things as landscaping and lighting repairs -- that will be required to keep the interchange looking good after construction is finished.

"This is a gateway -- we've known all along that there's a perception when people get off at that interchange," said Jenny Snapp, assistant director of planning for Franklin County. "We want people to stay, to come into the community to shop and work and to feel like it's inviting.

"The interchange is a key piece of that. We haven't done much of a sales pitch yet, but I anticipate that once we start, businesses can feel excited and see the positive benefit."

Snapp's office helped draft a "pitch letter" aimed at getting the West Side business community to share in the cost of the interchange, something planners hope will spur more private investment.

"This has been at least a two-year project," she said. "It's a true public-private partnership. We fully anticipate the project will move forward, but it's going to take some time for the maintenance funding."

One-time contributions of any amount are welcome, but the goal is to get donors into one of two categories:

* A managing partner, who makes an initial contribution $7,500 followed by $4,500 annually.

* A sustaining contributor, who donates between $1,000 and $4,499 annually for a minimum of five years.

The letter sent to businesses says getting the project plan together has been a team effort and the maintenance responsibilities will need to be a team effort as well.

"The partnership needs to raise $60,000 in up-front funds and establish an ongoing annual revenue stream of $36,000 to care for the enhancements," the letter states. "Toward this end, we are inviting members of the community to be part of this extraordinary partnership."

The interchange falls within ODOT's right of way and marks the boundary between Prairie and Franklin townships. Neither township wants to foot the entire bill for the upkeep of an interchange that isn't entirely in its jurisdiction.

Prairie Township trustee Steve Kennedy said the township supports the project, but he doesn't expect construction to proceed unless a maintenance agreement is in place. He said he hopes to see the business community "step up" to work alongside the government agencies.

"Prairie Township doesn't want to be stuck forever and ever with maintaining the project without any partners. It's not fair to township residents to cover the whole cost," Kennedy said. "I believe that Prairie Township and Franklin Township need to come to an agreement on the maintenance and upkeep. It's a great project -- let's keep it moving forward."

The process slowed a bit at the end of 2018, as the holiday season approached and both townships were in the process of hiring new administrators.

New Prairie Township Administrator Robert Peters said the interchange project ranks among the year's highest priorities.

"That interchange is the welcome mat to the township," Peters said.

Organizers hope to have the project ready for bids this spring, with the actual construction expected to take about four months.

"Franklin County's excited about this project. I don't see the project going anywhere but forward," Snapp said.

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