Fairfield County eyes upgrades to four Refugee Road intersections in Violet Township

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group

Fairfield County officials are planning upgrades at intersections along Refugee Road in Violet Township ahead of long-range plans to significantly widen the thoroughfare. 

While construction won’t start until 2023, approximately $3.2 million in funding is in place for a series of safety enhancements at four intersections between state Route 256 and Toll Gate Road. 

The bulk of the financing – roughly $2.2 million – will come from an Ohio Department of Transportation safety grant that’s been awarded to the Fairfield County Engineer’s Office. 

The additional $1 million for those projects will be paid by the county. 

Jeremiah Upp

Fairfield County Engineer Jeremiah Upp hopes the work will serve as a prelude to eventually widen Refugee from two lanes to five throughout that corridor at an estimated cost of $15 million to $17 million. 

“Overall, the project certainly would provide increased service for people traveling from Liberty Township and Walnut Township and other people who come in and out of Violet Township on Refugee Road,” Upp said. “Right now, we’re in the middle of designs for the intersection improvements. 

“The schedules for those projects will be honed in once the designs are finalized.” 

Funding is in place for several projects in 2021, including: 

• Adding a westbound right-turn lane on Refugee at Harmon Road. 

• Adding an eastbound right-turn lane on Refugee at Education Drive. 

• Adding a westbound right-turn lane on Refugee at Milnor Road. 

Each of those intersections, with the exception of Refugee-Education, will be outfitted with new traffic signals. Upp said Education Drive already has the updated technology. 

“All those signals will have advanced-dilemma zone detection,” Upp said. “That helps with the functioning of the lights, the timing of the lights. 

“It’s a big safety benefit.” 

More extensive upgrades also are being planned as part of the 2023 project for the Refugee-Pickerington roads intersection. 

Upp said turn lanes will be installed in all four directions and the intersection will be reconfigured to enhance sight-distance for motorists. 

“The way Pickerington Road comes into Refugee, there’s a skew there that makes it difficult for drivers to see,” he said. “We’re going to reduce the skew as much as we can to make it as perpendicular as possible.” 

Eventually, those upgrades will tie into the long-term widening project, Upp said. 

Making Refugee five lanes, he said, will reduce traffic congestion along the thoroughfare from state Route 256 to Toll Gate Road. 

It also would put the eastern half of the road through Violet Township in line with Refugee from 256 as it travels west to Fuller’s Way through the city of Pickerington. 

Pickerington is wrapping up the $15 million project west of Route 256, which began in October 2018. 

Thanks to grants from the Federal Highway Administration, the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the Ohio Public Works Commission and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, Pickerington's share for its project's construction isn’t expected to exceed $2.5 million. 

In addition to widening Refugee to five lanes, including a center turn lane, on the Pickerington portion, that project included: 

• 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 

When Refugee will be widened through Violet Township is not certain. 

“Future phases will encompass a five-lane buildout through that corridor,” Upp said. “That corridor has grown tremendously over the last 20 to 30 years. We’ve had our eyes on it because of the increased traffic demands.” 

Upp said construction timing comes down to funding, some of which he hopes to capture through grants from ODOT and MORPC because the project would benefit the county, Violet Township and Pickerington. 

“The goal will be to work with Violet Township and Pickerington to try to come up with a strategy for funding the second phase of the project,” he said. “A lot of these grants – and this is especially true with MORPC, who we will certainly be working with on this – they like to see multiple entities involved in a project and they like to see multiple sources of funding.” 

Violet Township Administrator Ed Drobina said he's aware the county is planning upgrades to the intersections but could not comment because he hasn't been shown the details of the project. 

Although the entire project would take place in Violet Township, Pickerington City Manager Greg Butcher city officials support the Refugee widening to the east to help better move traffic through the area. 

“Conceptually, it would be an extension of what the city of Pickerington constructed on Refugee Road within its jurisdiction,” he said. “Any time we can align corridors in geometry and capacity, we would endorse their project.” 

Butcher added the city hasn’t discussed participating financially in the widening project east of Route 256. 

“We would listen and certainly we would expect the county to engage us in that effort,” he said.

nellis@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekNate