Following weather- and utilities-related delays, local officials hope the Refugee Road widening project will be completed by next September.

In October 2018, an estimated $15 million project was launched to widen Refugee Road from its intersections with state Route 256 and Fuller's Way.

The project, which Ohio Department of Transportation and Pickerington city officials have said should improve traffic flow through the corridor, originally was expected to be completed by Dec. 30 this year.

However, rain and other precipitation last December and the first six months of 2019 led officials to delay the date to 2020.

"Traffic has been switched to new pavement on the north side," City Manager Greg Butcher said. "Generally speaking, the southern half of the new road needs constructed."

Butcher took over as Pickerington city manager Sept. 30, nearly a year after the Refugee project began. He spent the previous 18 years as neighboring Violet Township's engineer, where he oversaw township roadways.

Weather has been the primary culprit for prolonging the work, Butcher said, and it has taken longer than expected to relocate underground utilities.

Although drivers will continue to be affected by the work into next fall, eastbound and westbound traffic will be maintained.

"Similar to this year, barricades will be placed to provide safety for construction workers and separation from vehicles," Butcher said. "There will continue to be periodic isolated closures along the corridor as construction continues."

Once completed, the "comprehensive makeover" of Refugee from state Route 256 to Fuller's Way will include:

* Additional lanes on Refugee from the east corporation limit (which is a short distance east of Route 256) to the Refugee-Fuller's Way intersection.

* An additional center-turn lane/median from the Refugee-Fuller's Way intersection to the west corporation limit near Wheatfield Drive.

* Curb and gutter installation to improve drainage.

* Pickerington's "first modern roundabout" at Refugee and Fuller's Way.

* A new bike path on the north side of Refugee Road to provide access from Route 256 to the Blacklick Creek Greenway Trail.

* A new sidewalk on the south side of Refugee Road.

* Resurfacing Refugee Road as well as median installations throughout the corridor.

"It is going to be a five-lane road from Route 256 to Fuller's Way," Frank Wiseman, Pickerington's former city manager, said in June.

"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."

The project is the most expensive in Pickerington's history.

According to Butcher, it's backed by more than $12 million in federal and state funding from the Federal Highway Administration, the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, the Ohio Public Works Commission and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

Pickerington's share is estimated at $2.5 million.

City officials don't know, at this point, if the delays will change the final project cost.

"Since a large portion of the project is federally funded and will not be completely closed out by ODOT until 2021, the city has not been advised of a request for additional funding," Butcher said.

Despite the extended schedule, Butcher said "the project is running smoothly at this point" and will result in a marked upgrade for pedestrians, bicycles and, particularly, motorists.

"The additional lanes will provide more capacity along this important corridor, providing better traffic flow," he said.

Morgan Overbay, a public information officer for ODOT District 5, said the project is roughly $400,000 over budget as of Nov. 15 because of "utility conflicts," delays and tweaks to the reconstruction plan. But she said the project should benefit the community and area motorists when it's done.

"This project was designed to not only improve safety, but also enhance capacity and alleviate congestion," Overbay said.

"The intersection improvements, including new signals and turns lanes at Windmiller, Stonecreek, and (state Route) 256, as well as the roundabout in place of a signal at Fuller's Way, will ultimately enhance the traffic flow in the area.

"Other improvements include pavement widening, traffic islands, and new sidewalk and multiuse paths."