MORPC seeks input for TRAC/ODOT projects


The Big Walnut Interchange is among the projects the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission is seeking comments on from the public.

“The Big Walnut Interchange project will construct a new interchange on Interstate 71 at Big Walnut Road in Delaware County,” said MORPC’s Project Overview. “The new interchange includes an additional lane on I-71 northbound from Exit 121 to the proposed Exit 124 and local road improvements in the vicinity of the new interchange.”

The Delaware County Engineer’s Office is requesting $3 million for right-of-way acquisition in fiscal year 2025, states the application to the Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) of the Ohio Department of Transportation.

“The nine projects requesting funding in central Ohio each have a total cost that ranges between $15 million and $1.2 billion, so receiving TRAC funding really makes a difference in bringing a project to fruition,” said Thea Ewing, MORPC director of transportation & infrastructure development, in a recent news release.

The Big Walnut Interchange project is still in Tier II, or the development stage. Planning studies were completed in 2009, while preliminary engineering and environmental approval is in progress. However, the interchange studies, a detailed design, right-of-way acquisition, and utility relocation have not started.

The total project cost of the Big Walnut Interchange is $75 million.

Another project of interest to Delaware County residents is the US 23 Corridor Study.

“This study will identify the most feasible way of improving the link between the cities of Toledo and Columbus,” MORPC said. “The study will focus on physical improvements between Waldo, Ohio – the end of existing freeway – and northern I-270. The primary concepts under study include a west bypass of Delaware connecting to US 33, an upgrade of the existing alignment on US 23, and an eastern bypass connecting to I-71. ODOT Districts 2 and 6 are requesting $2 million for preliminary engineering in fiscal year 2023.”

MORPC is seeking input on the advantages or disadvantages of these projects so TRAC can help prioritize ODOT investments in central Ohio.

“Understanding what our community needs from its roadways helps MORPC advocate for and prioritize these projects,” MORPC Strategic Projects Manager Dina Lόpez said. “This year’s TRAC process is on an accelerated timeline, so the final selection of funded projects will take place in late August instead of the usual cycle closure at the end of the year.”

That means comments must be submitted by e-mail to [email protected] or in writing to Dina López, Re: TRAC Public Input, MORPC, 111 Liberty St., Suite 100, Columbus, OH 43215. “The deadline to submit feedback is 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 28, 2021,” MORPC said.

The other regional projects that have applied to MORPC for TRAC funding are:

• Alum Creek Drive widening over Big Walnut Creek

• Auxiliary lanes along I-71 from I-670 to I-270 study

• Brice Road interchange and I-70 corridor safety and congestion

• Broad Street widening in Pataskala

• Changing ramps on Rathmell Road at US 23 and I-270

• I-70 improvements at Taylor Road and SR 256 in Fairfield and Licking counties

• US 33 at Pickerington and Allen roads

In related news, ODOT officially announced the start of its 2021 construction season Wednesday, with more than 145 projects worth $540 million planned for central Ohio.

“This includes 44 pavement improvement projects, 18 bridge projects, and 13 safety upgrades,” ODOT said in a news release. “Goodbye, snowplows and hello, orange barrels.”

Big Walnut Road goes under I-71 near a planned interchange. Walnut Road goes under I-71 near a planned interchange. Gary Budzak | The Gazette

By Gary Budzak

[email protected]

Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.

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