The trench on U.S. 23 is open to traffic heading to Delaware, but there’s still orange barrels out at the site.
“We rejoice over the trench opening, but the project is nowhere near complete,” said Ohio Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nancy Burton.
The speed limit on the trench is 45 miles per hour, with the speed posted on signs and on the road itself.
“When we said they were express lanes, we meant it literally, but it’s not the Autobahn. It’s just the trench. We want people to slow down,” Burton said. “You’ve still got to abide by the speed limit, which is 45.”
The trench is two lanes under surface roads starting just north of I-270 and ending south of Northwoods Boulevard North. The two northbound express lanes do not allow drivers to access Campus View Boulevard or Flint Road.
“Its purpose was to separate local traffic from express traffic going to Delaware and points north, and give them a more direct way,” Burton said. “They aren’t competing with people who were going to either east or west Campus View, Dimension Drive, Flint. Those folks are separated from those who might be going to Delaware County or Delaware City, so it’s just safer.”
ODOT has said the I-270/U.S. 23 Interchange is the third most congested interchange in central Ohio.
In addition to the trench, the 270/23 project will reconfigure the clover-leaf ramps and add traffic signals to improve traffic flow; widen U.S. 23 from two to three lanes from Northwoods Boulevard to Lazelle Road; add a lane on 23 south from I-270 to Northwoods; and add a Worthington fence sign on the 23 bridge over 270.
Work on the trench walls continues, with U.S. 23 north reduced to one lane from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Mondays-Fridays until Nov. 25. The 270/23 project started in 2013, with the trench opening earlier this fall. It is expected to be completed in the fall of 2016, Burton said.
The 270/23 upgrades is one-half of what ODOT calls “the North Side Mega Fix.”
The other half of the Mega Fix is to reconfigure the I-270/U.S. 23/State Route 315 interchanges. The project includes building a new ramp from 23 south to 315; adding an exit lane/bridge on 270 east over the top of the 315 ramp; changing the loop ramp from 315 south to 270 east to a flyover ramp/bridge; adding a lane of 315 north from State Route 161 to 270; and reconstructing the Olentangy Trail underneath the new ramps.
The 270/23/315 portion of the project began this summer, and is expected to be completed in 2017, Burton said.
“The good news is a lot of that project is offline,” she said. “They’re working in the causeway under those bridges where there is not live traffic, because we’re building those bridges. That’s the difference between those two projects. The trench was right next to live traffic.”
A video animation on driving the trench can be viewed on youtube.com.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.