Major traffic changes are coming this fall for drivers who use Interstate 70 through downtown Columbus.
Two busy ramps both entering and exiting the highway near the border of German Village and downtown will be closed for good in November. But first, traffic on I-70 will be shuffled at the eastern Interstate 71 interchange Saturday, Oct. 12, so that crews can work on a portion of the highway.
The changes likely will tie up traffic on the heavily traveled interchange, but Ohio Department of Transportation officials expect the project to improve safety for vehicles and pedestrians at high-crash locations and reduce congestion with an additional lane in each direction.
It is part of the mammoth Columbus Crossroads project, an effort that was started in 2011 to untangle downtown highway interchanges and that has been broken into 19 phases, many of which are not yet funded but will compete for state gas-tax dollars. The current phase is expected to cost about $67 million.
Some of the ramp closures ODOT had planned for this year have shifted with the project’s construction schedule. Outdated information on ODOT’s website left some commuters confused about which ramps would be open through the end of the year.
“Schedule changes are typical in construction and particularly on a project this size,” said Breanna Badanes, an ODOT spokeswoman.
ODOT is working to update its website. That includes:
• Flipping the traffic pattern for eastbound I-70 and drivers exiting that stretch of highway for northbound I-71. Starting Oct. 12, through traffic will stay to the left when approaching I-71,and those exiting for northbound I-71 will stay on the right. Shifting traffic will allow crews to work on I-70 between Grant Avenue and 18th Street.
• Permanently closing the ramp from eastbound I-70 to 18th Street in November. That will be replaced around the same time by a new ramp, just west of the existing one, exiting to Parsons Avenue.
• Shutting down the Third Street ramp to eastbound I-70 for good in November. ODOT expects to open a newly built ramp from Fulton Avenue to eastbound I-70 in summer 2021.
• Moving a 60-day closure of Parsons Avenue south of Main Street to spring 2020. The intersection of Fulton Avenue and Fourth Street will close for two weeks in summer 2020.
ODOT is preparing for the closure of the Third Street ramp to cause a traffic headache for drivers, who will have to use alternate routes to ease congestion until the new ramp is ready. Some alternate routes to eastbound I-70 include using Livingston Avenue to Kelton Avenue or Alum Creek Drive; taking Greenlawn Avenue to northbound I-71; Main Street to Miller Avenue; Dublin Road to state Route 315.
The most complicated detour involves four legs: Spring Street to Neil Avenue to eastbound Interstate 670 to southbound I-71.
Drivers who enter I-71 from Broad Street will be disappointed if they expect to reach eastbound 70. That move is prohibited because of a short merge area, Badanes said.