Among the hundreds of most recent comments and questions regarding the Ohio Department of Transportation’s “Route 23 Connect: Delaware Regional Connection Study” were several given by local politicians at the most recent public meeting held virtually on Thursday.
The study seeks to find a feasible free-flow connection between Toledo and Columbus. The area from Waldo in Marion County to Interstate 270 along U.S. Route 23 is considered the weak link along the route by regional planners in Toledo and central Ohio.
As in other meetings, ODOT officials and consultants explained the purpose of the study, outlined potential options, and sought comments and questions before moving on to comments and questions from the public. There are essentially seven options on the table, with two impacting western Delaware County, three impacting eastern Delaware County, one consisting of improvements to the current U.S. Route 23, with the last option being to do nothing.
During the public comment portion, it was said that state Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware), who represents Delaware, Knox and parts of Franklin counties in District 19, favors upgrades of U.S. Route 23 and U.S. Route 36/state Route 37 as well as the construction of a Big Walnut Interchange off of I-71. He was quoted as saying he didn’t think commuters would want to travel north to end up going south.
Sunbury Mayor Joe St. John spoke during the public comment session. He wondered if a financial analysis had been done regarding the no-build option in terms of restricting growth. St. John said based on his experiences with a future Sunbury Parkway, it’s his opinion that local communities and townships, those most affected by the project, will “be left holding the bag” and have to pay the lion’s share of the project. He said any final project should be funded “from the top down,” meaning starting at the federal level.
Ostrander Mayor Chris Greasamar was mentioned during the meeting. On Friday, Greasamar told The Gazette he has requested that ODOT include “the village as well as Scioto Township in separate breakout meetings during the investigation stage of these two western route options to consider the impact on our residents, master planning, and potentional future projects.”
An unidentified Oxford Township trustee was quoted as saying he’s concerned because three of the concepts would go directly through the township. He also wondered how an eastern route would impact local roads for transport such as EMS and farm equipment.
Thom Slack, who was recently named the new head of the Route 23 study, said those and other comments were all great points. He added it’s important to know who wants to be involved in future planning for whatever is decided. It was also said that all comments will be given equal weight, regardless of who provided them.
ODOT officials said one thing they wanted to clear up was that maps of the east and west options showed “swaths” of land that could be used for a bypass. The swath was just a range of land being considered and that not all of that land would be needed for construction. Eventually, those swaths would turn into lines, and any roadway constructed would be 150 to a maximum of 300-foot wide.
Thursday’s meeting completed portion two of the four-part study. ODOT officials said they will need time to go through and answer all input they received. The third part of the study may not begin until this summer, ODOT said. Information on Route 23 Connect was first shared with the public in November 2021.
In the meantime, an online survey on Route 23 remains open until Feb. 28. To complete it, visit publicinput.com/23connect.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.