Entering the city of Delaware at The Point — intersection of U.S. Route 36 and state Route 37 — Friday morning, traffic was backed up at the light on William Street and Central Avenue. As motorists left the city near the railroad bridge, there was an orange sign that read, “End Road Work.” While many motorists would like that road work to end, it’s heating up, just like the weather.
“Construction starts in May and ends in October,” said Bill Ferrigno, the city’s director of engineering and public works. He was speaking about transportation on the WDLR radio program “Delaware City Digest” on Friday, May 31, because it’s a popular topic. Ironically, the station’s studio is also on the east side and near The Point, and it will have a front-row seat to a lot of the city’s roadwork in the months ahead.
Ferrigno spoke of three projects on Delaware’s east side:
• East William Street widening: For the last several weeks, motorists have come to a stop or gone slowly past while a private contractor has done utility work. “Our contractor will start Monday (June 3) with the road widening project,” Ferrigno said. “This won’t be done until this time next year. We’ll do our best to keep the road open at all times, but please go slow.”
For this nearly $6.5 million project, William Street will be widened from Richardson to Foley Street to add a center turn lane. Also, the signal at Channing and Ann streets will be reconfigured to a Channing and Cheshire streets traffic signal. In addition, the pedestrian bridge over William Street at Lake Street will be replaced to make it easier for trucks to turn.
“This will make it a much more functional intersection,” Ferrigno said. “We’ve been struck with the geography of this for 140 years, since the railroad went in.”
• The Point Improvement Project: On May 22, more than 100 residents attended an open house at nearby Conger Elementary School regarding the intersection. The city wants to replace the Norfolk Southern railroad bridge to widen Central Avenue (SR 37) and William Street (US 36) under the bridge to two lanes each to improve safety and reduce congestion. The city has secured 75% of the $26 million for the project, and if everything works out, construction will start in 2022.
Residents have frequently suggested a bypass around the city involving U.S. routes 42 and 23, which would be about 10 miles in length, require at least a dozen bridges and the acquisition of 300 acres of private property. Ferrigno said that project would take 20 years to complete and cost $250 million (of which the city would need to provide $50 million, and voters rejected the last city road levy). In addition, studies suggest the bypass would carry only 6,000 vehicles per day.
• Annual street resurfacing: Union Street, Houk Road, Pumphrey and English Terrace, Birch Bend, and South Section Line Road will be worked on. Ferrigno said gas tax revenue will allow the city to resurface Holly Street and Cottswold, Silver Maple, and Somerset drives starting in July. The city is doing subsurface work on East Central Avenue from The Point to Troy Road, and the Ohio Department of Transportation will replace the top surface in 2020.
Ferrigno said the city assigns grades to its roads, and the worst ones tend to be the first ones to get worked on. However, proximity for the contractor is also taken into account, he said. All told, about $2 million will be spent on resurfacing this year.
Motorists have asked if more one-way streets adjacent to East William Street and East Central Avenue would help traffic. Ferrigno said no — any accident or emergency would likely increase congestion.
“It’s going to be a busy summer, but it’s always a busy season in the orange-barrel world,” said Lee Yoakum, community affairs coordinator and “Delaware City Digest” host.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.