When it comes to Delaware County road projects that have been in the works for a long time, there's no place like Home Road.

The Delaware County Thoroughfare Plan, adopted by county commissioners in December 2001, called for, among other projects, an extension of the road east of U.S. Route 23, ultimately connecting with Lewis Center Road.

Earlier this month, work on the next phase of that project -- and the first to involve construction on the east side of Route 23 -- began.

"It has been a long time in coming," Delaware County chief deputy engineer Rob Riley said.

Riley said the initial plan fell victim to changing markets and the lack of available funding for a project of this magnitude.

The project was revived about five years ago, Riley said, and began with the 2015 rerouting of the Home Road intersection at Route 23.

The next phase, which is expected to be completed in 2020, is a nearly 1-mile-long, four-lane road that will run east from the current intersection of Home Road and Route 23 to extensions of Graphics Way and Green Meadow Drive to just west of the Norfolk Southern/CSX railroad tracks.

"It's a key east-west corridor that we really need to improve transportation in that part of the county," Delaware County commissioner Jeff Benton said. "Secondly, it opens up that whole area for economic development."

"It's a huge undertaking for the county and required a significant partnership," Riley said.

The public-private partnership includes landowners the Kerbler family and developer Schottenstein Real Estate Group, which will build Orange Grand Communities, a residential community of more than 300 primarily rental units along the new stretch of Home Road. The tax-increment financing agreement for Orange Grand, Riley said, is helping to provide up front funding for the construction of the Home Road extension.

"That development is paying for about half the cost of the $100 million project, with Delaware County paying the balance, and some of that being reimbursed through the ongoing TIF revenues," Riley said.

A TIF locks in the taxable worth of real property at the value it holds at the time the authorizing legislation is approved, diverting resulting incremental revenue to designated uses, such as funding necessary improvements or infrastructure to support new development, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency.

The project is being managed through Delaware County's Transportation Improvement District, a tool that county governments use both to obtain state funding for transportation projects and to significantly streamline the processes for project bidding, selecting contractors and consultants, locating utilities and more. These benefits also apply to projects undertaken in partnership with private developers and with other jurisdictions in the county, including cities and townships.

Orange Township, where the extension is located, has been involved in zoning matters and other discussions throughout the project planning process as well.

"I'm very excited about this project, which has been discussed for at least 18 years and is finally coming to fruition," said township trustee Lisa Knapp.

"This is all possible due to the board of trustees' cooperative efforts with Delaware County, Olentangy (Local Schools) and private entities over the past two years," she said. "The road extension will help alleviate traffic congestion in the area by providing a bypass around the village of Lewis Center and a much-needed railroad overpass."

Knapp referred to a subsequent phase of the extension that will continue Home Road from Green Meadows to Lewis Center Road east of the railroad tracks and, finally, connect with the current southern end of Piatt Road.

Riley said he anticipates construction of that phase -- which would include a roundabout at the new intersection of Lewis Center and Home roads -- to begin in 2024.

In the meantime, the county sees the project as having significant economic benefits.

"We are always an advocate for any infrastructure that provides benefit to residents," said Bob Lamb, Delaware County's economic development director.

Lamb said his office worked closely with the engineer's office and the developer in creating the TIF and will continue to be involved moving forward.

"We anticipate that there will be a lot of businesses that will plan to locate there," Benton said.

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