Modern highway updates of the northern outer belt of Interstate 270 and along I-71 brings economic growth, says the new deputy director of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s District 6.

“You cannot have development and growth without surface transportation improvements,” said Jack Marchbanks, the new deputy director. He replaces Ferzan Ahmed, who was named Delaware County’s administrator in March.

Marchbanks has returned to his Delaware office in his former position as a deputy director of ODOT. He originally served in the position from May 1997 to January 2007.

District 6 is a 410-person operation spanning eight counties — Delaware, Fayette, Franklin, Madison, Marion, Morrow, Pickaway and Union — and is responsible for 1,557 bridges and 4,921 lane miles of road.

“I don’t care how good any one person is, you can’t do a good job without a good team,” Marchbanks said. “It’s a great team, it’s a great agency. (We) make visible significant impact every day.”

“I’m thankful that Director Jerry Wray gave me a call back in late April,” Marchbanks said. “It’s an exciting job. You have a sense of doing something that counts.”

“I’ve been in and out of government for over half of my life,” he said. “This was my favorite position in government.”

Since leaving ODOT in January 2007, Marchbanks worked in the private sector first with an engineering company and then started his own business.

He returned to college to earn his doctorate in “intellectual and cultural history.”

“I’ve been what they call a lay or amateur historian,” Marchbanks said. “I was offered the opportunity to earn my doctorate if I would teach history at Ohio University.”

“One of the projects I had done, while I was here previously, was the River to Lake Underground Railroad Freedom Trail,” Marchbanks said. “It is to pay tribute to the first civil rights movement which you had Quakers and escaped captives — I don’t like to use the word ‘slaves’ — working to get to Canada.”

Development brings economic growth by attracting businesses and jobs to the area, he said.

Marchbanks said part of the job of ODOT is working with developers and people who have economic interests.

“Developers love interchanges,” he said. “They love to propose them because it enhances the value of land. You need access (points). It helps everyone when people are working at good jobs.”

After 10 years of being away from ODOT, Marchbanks confessed that there have been changes. “A lot of things are the same here, but I would be lying to you and I would be wrong to say they aren’t different,” he said. “The technology is vastly different over just 10 years.”

Highway “traffic has gone up 25 percent in almost 10 years,” Marchbanks said. “The traffic volume is so different on the roads.”

The highways were 1950s and 1960s designs built for 55-mph cars and with a traffic volume one-fifth of today’s, according to Marchbanks.

“Being a steward isn’t sitting on what you have but thinking creatively. It comes down to using technology to maximize the existing capacity.”

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By D. Anthony Botkin

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D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin