The Interstate 71 North exit ramp for U.S. 36 and State Route 37 will be widened this spring, which means exiting the freeway sooner for drivers going to Sunbury or Delaware.
According to a graphic recently provided by the Ohio Department of Transportation, the ramp, which currently starts across from the A.D. Farrow Harley-Davidson dealership, would begin just above the truck weigh station. The exit ramp would be two lanes until it branches off into four lanes near the traffic signal.
The ramp-widening project will “improve traffic flow, increase capacity on the ramp and decrease back-ups onto the interstate,” states an ODOT handout.
“These exit ramp improvements are required as part of the Simon-Tanger outlet mall construction (and) as a result of the traffic impact studies,” said ODOT spokeswoman Nancy Burton. “It was also required that 36/37 just east of the interchange be widened. And lastly, southern Wilson Road must be extended.”
During peak times, traffic waiting to exit at the interchange has extended onto the freeway, creating safety issues.
“Stopped traffic on I-71 northbound during the afternoon peak hour is a near-daily occurrence as traffic waits to exit onto U.S. 36/S.R. 37,” said the ODOT website’s “Projects of Interest” link.
Weather permitting, construction is expected to begin in March and be completed in June for the outlet mall opening.
“Construction is planned to occur from the north to the south which means the double-lane exit will be constructed first, providing additional capacity by opening day should the construction not be completely finished,” Burton said in an email. “It is required that the other work on widening of 36-37 east of the interchange and the Wilson Road extension be complete within one year of mall opening, but everyone agrees it would be best to have it completed prior to opening.”
The estimated cost of the exit ramp work is $3.65 million, which is being funded by the mall developer using a New Community Authority.
The existing diamond interchange at I-71 and 36/37 was constructed more than 40 years ago, said the ODOT website. It is the only interstate access in central and northern Delaware County. ODOT initiated safety studies at the interchange in 2003 and 2007, and feasibility studies in 2008 and 2009. In 2012, ODOT completed a safety project at the interchange to solve near-term problems.
The interchange has been ranked toward the top in terms of safety concerns by the Highway Safety Program.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.