The Ohio Department of Transportation has issued a response to comments and questions for Round 2 of the U.S. 23 Corridor Study, also known as Route 23 Connect.
The 22-page document answers 138 questions culled from more than 3,500 individuals from November 2021 through February 2022. The questions and comments were provided to ODOT in a number of different ways: in person at five public meetings; on comment forms; via phone, email or the ODOT website; and an online survey.
ODOT said the study assumes the completion of all the projects in the 2050 Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission Metropolitan Transportation Plan (morpc.org/mtp2050). “This includes improvements to the I-71/U.S. 36/SR 37 interchange, a new I-71/Big Walnut Interchange, widening of US 36/SR 37 on the east side of Delaware, Home Road extension to Lewis Center Road, and many more projects,” ODOT said. “There are currently no plans for large-scale improvements to US 36 west of Delaware or to SR 37 east of Sunbury.”
Under comments, “Multiple commenters stated that they do not feel the proposed I-71/Big Walnut Interchange is needed.”
Intel’s proposed plants in Licking County was not included in the Route 23 study, ODOT said. “However, it uses travel demand forecasts that include substantial growth in Licking County, including the portion … that contains the planned manufacturing facility.”
The idea behind the study is to improve truck traffic from Toledo to Columbus on the major shipping corridor of Route 23. Seven concepts are being considered as improvements, ODOT said. However, unused railroad right-of-way will not be considered in the east or west concepts. If the C1 concept were selected, US 23 would be converted “to a limited-access roadway, with frontage roads or backage roads used to provide access to properties.” In addition, the study is not considering a second outerbelt around Columbus.
“Multiple commenters believe Concept C1 will be the cheapest and most cost-effective concept,” an ODOT document containing a summary of general comments states.
In terms of traffic volume, ODOT said 30,000 vehicles a day pass through Waldo on US 23, and 30,000-50,000 vehicles a day pass through the city of Delaware and southern Delaware County on US 23. That increases to more than 80,000 vehicles per day in Franklin County near I-270.
One question suggested that adding capacity on US 23 would increase traffic, rendering any change as negligible. ODOT said, “the proposed concepts would create a free-flow connection, which is likely to decrease congestion and delays in the study area, even if traffic volumes increase. … Reducing congestion on US 23 is expected to improve emergency response times.”
If a concept is selected, construction would not begin for at least 7-10 years.
Finally, “Information regarding next steps will be released in the coming weeks.”
To access the entire document, visit publicinput.com/23connect and click on “Route 23 Connect Public Engagement Round 2 Comment Response.pdf under the Documents heading to the right of webpage.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.