Delaware County commissioners have approved spending $700,000 to fund a feasibility study regarding a new interchange along Interstate 71 at Big Walnut Road.
The county’s deputy chief engineer, Rob Riley, met with commissioners Monday to discuss the proposed project.
Riley briefed commissioners on the history of the proposed interchange, which he said has been discussed since the 1980s before the Polaris interchange was built. He said that the funding for the initial phase of the project will be paid for by the Ohio Department of Transportation. The county will be reimbursed for expenses incurred during the feasibility study.
“We have funding provided by ODOT, just less than $4 million, that will get us through the engineering phase,” Riley said. “What we will be looking at are some interchange ramp configurations that would basically allow us to proceed without having to widen I-71. That may mean metering traffic getting on to 71 during that morning rush hour, so people may have to wait a few minutes to get on the freeway.”
According to Riley, the feasibility study will take about 12 months to complete and construction would not begin for another four to five years. The project, estimated at $30 million to complete, would still need to receive approval from the Federal Highway Administration.
Riley noted that a feasibility study conducted in 2008-09 determined that an interchange at Big Walnut Road would “work really well,” but would not have been cost-effective because of the expense of adding lanes to I-71 in the area.
“All of a sudden that became a $60 million to $100 million project that no one had funding for at the time,” he said. “That study kind of went on the shelf for a few years as we worked through some other improvements around the area. The Gemini (Parkway) project will provide some relief. It kind of maximizes the utility of the Polaris-Gemini interchange. That interchange is about as good as it can get at this point.”
Also during Monday’s meeting, Riley told commissioners that work on the Gemini Parkway extension is expected to begin in the spring of 2016. He said ODOT is expected to award the design-build contract for the extension project in November.
“The design-build team will finish up plans through the winter and I would expect to actually see dirt moving in the spring, going through the amphitheater site,” Riley told commissioners.
Riley also said that the East Powell Road project is moving forward. He told commissioners that after the purchase of several more right-of-way parcels is completed, relocation of utilities will begin in the area. He said that work will continue this fall and into the winter months.
“The majority of the road work won’t happen until next year,” Riley said. “We’ll actually be bringing plans and bid documents later this year, kind of in conjunction with the Gemini construction.”
Andrew Carter can be reached at 740-413-0902 and on Twitter @AndrewCarterDG.