Green grass, orange barrels and signs — spring is in the air and on the roads of Delaware County.
The Ohio Department of Transportation recently sent notifications about two important, but different, widening projects in the county — the exit ramp at Interstate 71 and Routes 36/37; and at State Route 750/Powell Road.
“We have a lot going on and it’s going to get busier,” said ODOT spokeswoman Nancy Burton.
ODOT is overseeing the I-71 project, which is being constructed by outlet mall developer Simon-Tanger’s contractors. A traffic study by the developer determined that a larger ramp was necessary to handle the increased traffic.
“If you go north on 71, it’s between the rest area and the former (truck) weigh station,” Burton said. “It’ll start out as an additional one lane, and around the weigh station it will expand to two, and once you are on the actual ramp, you will have four lanes.”
Over the next three weeks, the three northbound lanes of 71 are shifted towards the median so crews can work on the shoulder. The turning movements on the exit ramp to 36/37 are maintained, but the turn lane length is shortened.
A unique feature of the interstate project is variable work zone speed limits, which Gov. John Kasich signed into law last year. If you see a flashing sign with the number, that means workers are present and the speed limit is down to 60 mph. If the sign isn’t flashing, the speed limit is 65 mph through the work zone. The speed limit is regularly 70 mph in the area.
“The legislation allows us to use that (the variable speeds) on projects where there are (heavy) volumes of traffic that have to get through the area,” Burton said. “That’s a well-traveled section of the interstate.”
The I-71 project is expected to be completed prior to the outlet mall opening in late June.
ODOT said the early spring has allowed its crews to resume work on widening Powell Road. The project will widen the road, also known as SR 750, to five lanes between Gibson Drive and Old Sawmill Road; add a 10-foot multi-use path on the north side of 750; and building dual left turn lanes on Sawmill Parkway and 750 for northbound, southbound and eastbound traffic at the intersection. The construction is just east of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
Officials say the widening project, begun last fall, will reduce congestion and improve safety.
“That is a very busy area in terms of retail destinations,” Burton said. “Working with the community, businesses and municipalities, this project will greatly improve how people travel to and from those destinations.”
Through May, traffic has been shifted north so crews can widen the south side of 750; and there will be lane reductions and driveway closures on Sawmill Parkway.
Summer work will involve shifting 750 traffic to the south; working on the east side of Sawmill Parkway; closing Farmington Avenue for one week; and constructing Galloway Drive. Paving and striping should take place from mid-August until September.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.