The Ohio Department of Transportation received more than 3,000 comments regarding the Route 23 Connect study during its most recent round of public engagement. In response, ODOT has provided answers to the most frequently asked questions.
The Route 23 Connect study has generated great interest in whether there will be possible upgrades to U.S. Route 23 or potential bypasses to the east and west of Delaware. At least one grassroots group has been organized out of concern for the study’s final recommendation.
“This study is the first step in determining if a free-flow connection between Toledo and Columbus is possible,” ODOT said. “It will not identify an exact route or commit ODOT to construct any improvements.”
An initial evaluation of the several concepts with cost comparisons will be presented to the public this summer, and “a completed study with a recommended concept” out either this fall or next winter.
The evaluation will include impacts to farmland, historic sites and natural resources. “ODOT strives to avoid resource impacts and impacts are minimized when unavoidable,” the FAQ said. Also being considered are costs, transportation benefits and community impacts, as well as public feedback. “A large, diverse team of ODOT subject matter experts will make the decision on which concept to advance for further study, if any.”
Once the study is finalized and if a concept is recommended, possible routes and improvements will be evaluated and identified in greater detail, ODOT said. As of now, no concepts have been decided on.
“Technical data (such as traffic forecasts and cost estimates) continues to be updated and public feedback is an important part of the decision-making process,” ODOT said. “Feedback from the fall/winter public meetings and the upcoming summer public meetings will be included in the decision-making process along with the updated technical data.”
Funding for the Route 23 Connect study has been budgeted, but not for construction.
“Before ODOT can consider construction, ODOT must conduct environmental studies, develop plans, and obtain funding,” the FAQ said. “Each of these items typically takes multiple years for a study of this scale. Therefore, if a viable concept is identified and funded, construction would not begin for at least 7-10 years. … It is too early in the study process to know what, if any, specific properties will be impacted.”
However, the agency does have “a detailed process when it buys property.”
ODOT said “a more detailed response to comments will be provided in the coming weeks.” For more information, visit publicinput.com/23connect.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.