Columbus studies new bridges over Olentangy, Scioto rivers

Bill Bush - The Columbus Dispatch (TNS)

Traffic on Olentangy River Road between Bethel Road on the north and Goodale Street on the south is expected to become even more congested in the coming decades as Columbus grows, and a new city study will examine building two new river-spanning bridges to better connect the corridors with surrounding neighborhoods.

The $500,000 study approved by the Columbus City Council last month will look at ways to improve the flow of traffic between Ohio State and Downtown, including assessing the feasibility of new bridges crossing the Olentangy River south of the Ohio Stadium and Scioto River near the new Crew soccer stadium in the Arena District.

One proposal being studied would connect Olentangy River Road from Goodale south across Interstate 670 and the Scioto River to Broad Street in Franklinton. The path of that new connection hasn’t been determined.

“It could be for transit only” such as rapid buses, or for all vehicles and pedestrians, said Debbie Briner, spokeswoman for the city Department of Public Service. “All of this is to be determined by the study,” along with costs and funding sources.

The other, a plan to extend Kinnear Road north of the Lennox Town Centrer to the east across Route 315 and the Olentangy River into the university’s medical complex, will also be studied.

“If you think about it now, there is not a direct connection from Olentangy River Road to West Broad Street,” Justin Goodwin, transportation planning manager with the city, told the city council last month.

“There’s great potential to provide additional access to jobs if we can link the West Broad Street corridor to the Olentangy River Road and the Northwest Corridor and to those major institutions and job centers.”

The city’s Public Service Department said it has no projections on how much new bridges spanning the two rivers might cost. The study, by Kimley-Horn and Associates, will also look at changes to mass transit, zoning, density, and other issues to improve the flow of people between Downtown and Ohio State, the first of five major corridors the city hopes to improve.

“It’s actually a little bit bigger picture than just the bridges,” said Keith Myers, vice president of planning, architecture and real estate at OSU. The plan is to identify connections, or “knots,” in the movement of people through the corridor, and try to loosen them through various solutions, he said.

The Kinnear Road intersection with Olentangy River Road is one of those knots. The study will examine a new bridge connecting Kinnear, north of the Lennox Town Center shopping plaza, to the main campus to the east, spanning the Olentangy River.

Ohio State plans to contribute $100,000 toward the study with an aim to help better integrate the university’s burgeoning west campus, which might eventually house thousands of residents, with the main campus, said university spokesman Dan Hedman.

COTA and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission are contributing $200,000 each, $300,000 of which the city will use to reimburse itself so that its contribution is also $200,000, Briner said. The study may end up costing up to $1 million, with private contributions potentially making up the difference, and public input will be sought, she added.

The city’s intent isn’t to have another study to set on a shelf, but a blueprint that can be ready by as soon as a year from now to begin construction in three to five years, Goodwin told the council.

“This initiative is really intended to be an action plan,” he said, noting central Ohio may add a million new residents over the next three decades.

The corridor presents a number of challenges for planners, including interchanges, rivers, bridges and underpasses, Goodwin said.

“It’s already experiencing congestion today,” he said. “Anybody who commutes on Rt. 315 experiences that.”

Bill Bush

The Columbus Dispatch (TNS)

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