Restructuring the Point -- the congested intersection of William Street and Central Avenue -- will require years of planning and work, but that work will provide huge benefits on Delaware's east side, city officials say.

City engineer Bill Ferrigno said it would be the city's largest street project since U.S. routes 23 and 42 were reconfigured in 2001 to improve access between the highways on the city's southern edge.

The Point was one of a number of street projects discussed during a city open house May 22 at Conger Elementary School.

The intersection is a significant traffic bottleneck because four lanes of traffic entering the city from the east are squeezed into two lanes at the railroad underpass where William and Central -- also known as U.S. Route 36 and state Route 37 -- meet.

Westbound traffic often backs up while waiting to drive under the bridge, deputy city engineer Matt Weber said, "but a lot of folks don't realize we also have an eastbound capacity problem, too. (Traffic) backs up in front of Conger Elementary School and can back up all the way into our downtown."

City records show the project would replace the railroad bridge to allow four lanes of traffic beneath it. Other improvements would include better pedestrian access, turn lanes and gateway features.

Once started in spring 2020, the project would take 18 to 24 months to complete and would cost about $26 million, city documents show. The city has secured state and federal funding to cover 75 percent of that cost and is pursuing additional grants and funding for the rest.

During the May 22 open house, information stations were set up in the school gym, manned by city officials and employees of the city's consultant, Gannett Fleming Engineers and Architects, Columbus. Another such meeting will be scheduled in the summer, city documents show. (See related story.)

Right-of-way acquisition for the Point project is expected in winter 2020, with utility relocation anticipated in spring 2021.

The city is accepting public comments about the project's details until June 21. They should be sent to Weber, the project's manager, at mweber@delawareohio.net.

City spokesman Lee Yoakum said about 80 residents visited the open house during the first two of its three hours.

"This has been a good opportunity to talk about the Point project and to also hear from our residents about the Point project," he said. "It's just a good opportunity for residents to ask the kind of questions residents should be asking, and for the city and its staff to be able to talk about a project that has been much discussed and debated and mentioned for decades.

"This gateway into the city of Delaware has traffic-volume issues and all because traffic is constrained under the railroad bridge," Yoakum said.

"A project of this nature is a multiyear project, so it's important to the city of Delaware," Weber said during the open house. "So tonight is one of at least two, maybe three public-involvement sessions we're going to have for the project over the course of the planning process.

"Tonight, we're kind of here to tell you where we're at," Weber said. "We certainly have some aspects of the project nailed down as far as the project area, what we might see east of the railroad."

Weber said one area where not much progress has been made is the aesthetics of the new bridge.

"We're looking forward to our next public meeting. ... We're going to have maybe some more specifics about how that railroad bridge replacement will look," he said.

In addition to four lanes under the bridge, he said, the plan also calls for pedestrian paths on each side of the road, with room to add a fifth travel lane later.

"West of the bridge, we still have a lot of work to do with (surveying) and pinning down the property lines before we really know what kind of impacts we're going to have on the residents west of the bridge," Weber said.

"We do know that right now, there's one left-turn lane if you're going east on Central Avenue," he said. "We're going to have a second turn lane there as well."

Ferrigno said residents at the open house asked good questions and "have been really interested and wanting to see improvement on the east side of town."

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