The Ohio Department of Transportation, District 6, hosted a public meeting Thursday evening at Northgate Church to provide an overview of the recommended Green Route alternative for the proposed southern I-71 and 36/37 Interchange modifications.
Project Manager Steve Fellenger said the project is needed to reduce congestion and improve the operation of US 36/SR 37 through the interchange while maintaining efficiency on I-71.
Fellenger said the southern interchange would improve safety at the interchange and eliminate stacking on I-71, improve east-west connectivity across Delaware County for commuters and freight, and support future growth in Delaware County as intended by current land use and economic development plans.
At a public meeting in April, ODOT offered three alternatives for the interchange modification – Green, Blue, and Purple routes. At this Thursday’s meeting Fellenger said the Blue alternative would not only be the most costly, it also would have the greatest environmental impact on streams, wetlands, and farmland.
Fellenger said the Green alternative would have less impact than the Purple alternative in five areas — less residential replacement, less commercial displacement, fewer property owners with Right of Way impacts, less potential endangered species habitat impact, and fewer potentially hazardous material sites.
Fellenger said a Tanger Outlets Traffic Impact Study resulted in Tanger Outlet Mall opening day improvements to the 36/37 I-71 corridor. Those improvements were an I-71 two-lane northbound exit ramp, widening of 36/37, a Wilson Road extension to the south, a backage road from Wilson Road to AD Farrow Harley Davidson, and the 36/37 and Wilson Road intersection.
Deferred from opening day improvements were turn lanes and ramp lanes, and widening of parts of 36/37. Fellenger said the value of the deferred improvements is $16.5 million.
Part of the initial funding for the new exit, the southern interchange, comes from that $16.5 million in deferred Tanger Outlet Mall opening day improvements.
Several attendees at Thursday’s public meeting said they believe the $16.5 million was intended for improvements at the existing interchange, specifically to I-71 southbound, both from the east and from the west.
Fellenger showed a graphic based on the I-270 and State Route 161 Interchange with that interchange’s footprint laid over the I-71 36/37 interchange. The illustration showed how free flow directional ramps would impact businesses at the existing interchange. Displaced businesses would include MacDonald’s, Bob Evans, the Duke BP Gas Station, Starbucks, the Hampton Inn, Pilot and Flying J truck stops, AD Farrow, Col. Sanders/Arthur Treacher’s, and Burger King.
That scenario would also close three intersections – Fourwinds Drive, Wilson Road, and the entrances to businesses between the BP Station and Arby’s. Businesses like Arby’s, Taco Bell, and Wendy’s would lose frontage and have no front entrance off of the directional ramps.
Fellenger said while the Green alternative project impact could not be finalized until the detail design phase, anticipated impacts are 65 acres of Right of Way acquisition, 17 property owners would be impacted, there would be two residential relocations, and two commercial relocations.
He explained that the $162.6 million multi-phase southern interchange project includes the $16.5 million as outlined in an agreement signed by Columbus Outlets LLC, Delaware County, ODOT, Berkshire Landing NCA, and Berkshire Township. Fellenger said ODOT has discretion when and where that money would be spent.
Phase A of the project would cost $54 million, Fellenger said. The Village of Sunbury has approved donating $100,000 towards the project as a 20 percent match for a $400,000 Mid Ohio Regional Planning Grant that has been requested but not yet approved.
Tanger Outlet Mall Traffic Impact Improvements would add $10 million; NorthGate Partners would contribute $25.8 million, the NorthGate NCA $7.7 million. In June the Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) was asked for another $10 million. TRAC has not yet approved that request.
Fellenger said there would be an environmental impact public hearing in early 2017, with environmental clearance expected in April of 2017 followed by detailed design of the Green Alternative.
Fellenger said Right of Way acquisition typically takes 12-18 months for each project phase. Construction of Phase A could begin in 2018, with all phases completed by 2035.
Fellenger said he would accept public comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at Steve Fellenger, PE Project Manager, ODOT, 400 E. William Street, Delaware, OH 43015.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.