Traffic on Olentangy River Road between Bethel Road in north Columbus and Goodale Street to the south is expected to become even more congested in coming decades as Columbus grows, and a new city study will examine the possibility of building two new river-spanning bridges to better connect the corridors with neighborhoods.
The $500,000 study, which Columbus City Council approved in November, would look at ways to improve the flow of traffic between Ohio State University and downtown Columbus, including assessing feasibility of new bridges crossing the Olentangy River south of Ohio Stadium and the Scioto River near the new Columbus Crew soccer stadium in the city's Arena District.
One proposal being studied would connect Olentangy River Road from Goodale south across Interstate 670 and the Scioto River to Broad Street in Franklinton. The path of that new connection hasn't been determined.
"It could be for transit only," such as rapid buses, or for all vehicles and pedestrians, said Debbie Briner, spokeswoman for the Columbus Department of Public Service.
"All of this is to be determined by the study," along with costs and potential funding sources, she said.
The other proposal involves a plan to extend Kinnear Road north of the Lennox Town Center to the east across state Route 315 and the Olentangy into Ohio State's medical complex.
"If you think about it now, there is not a direct connection from Olentangy River Road to West Broad Street," Justin Goodwin, transportation planning manager for Columbus, told City Council in November.
"There's great potential to provide additional access to jobs if we can link the West Broad Street corridor to Olentangy River Road and the northwest corridor and to those major institutions and job centers," Goodwin said.
Columbus Department of Public Service staff members said they have no projections on the cost of the bridges.
The study, by Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., also would look at changes to mass transit, zoning, density and other issues to improve the flow of people between downtown Columbus and Ohio State -- the first of five major corridors the city hopes to improve.
"It's actually a little bit bigger picture than just the bridges," said Keith Myers, vice president of planning, architecture and real estate at Ohio State. The plan is to identify "knots" in the movement of people through the corridor and try to loosen them , he said.
The Kinnear Road intersection with Olentangy River Road is one of those knots. The study will examine a new bridge connecting Kinnear to Ohio State's main campus to the east, spanning the Olentangy.
Ohio State plans to contribute $100,000 to the study, with an aim to better integrate the university's burgeoning west campus, which eventually might house thousands of residents, with the main campus, said Dan Hedman, a university spokesman.
The Central Ohio Transit Authority and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission are contributing $200,000 each, $300,000 of which the city will use to reimburse itself so that its contribution is also $200,000, Briner said.
The study might end up costing up to $1 million, with private contributions potentially making up the difference, she said. Public input also would be sought.
Columbus' intent is not to have another study to sit on a shelf but to have a blueprint that could be ready in as soon as a year to begin construction in three to five years, Goodwin told council.
"This initiative is really intended to be an action plan," he said, noting central Ohio might add a million new residents during the next three decades.
The corridor presents a number of challenges for planners, including interchanges, rivers, bridges and underpasses, Goodwin said.
"It's already experiencing congestion today," he said. "Anybody who commutes on Route 315 experiences that."