Nearly $18 million has been set aside to maintain Interstate 70, but local officials want about a third of that to be used toward widening the remaining portion of the highway to six lanes.
Plans to widen I-70 from Enon Road to Ohio 72 have been shelved until 2036 due to tight state transportation budgets.
And while local transportation officials are working to get the widening project funded sooner, the delay could mean that planned paving and rehab work along the roadway and bridges in that stretch would have to be redone.
“It’s my hope that they would be able to fund the widening project before they have to spend the money on resurfacing and rehabilitating this section because it amounts to a significant cost savings,” said Scott Schmid, Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee director.
“Basically, if you go back and add the lanes five years, 10 years down the road, now you’re going to have to tear up all the pavement that you just placed down during these rehab projects and replace it all again,” he said. “So you’re spending the money twice. And depending on when we get the add lane, it could be relatively soon after they go out and rehab it and that would be unfortunate.”
Ohio Department of Transportation District 7 will get $8.3 million to pave I-70 and a portion of Interstate 675 from the Montgomery County line to Route 4 later this year; $3.7 million will be used to repair three bridges over the highway from Enon Road to U.S. 68 in 2015; and $5.9 million has been approved to pave I-70 between Enon Road to Ohio 72 in 2016.
Officials have also received $1.1 million to purchase right of way along the highway to make way for the widening project.
ODOT District 7 officials has tried for years to get funding to widen I-70 to six lanes in both directions from Enon Road to Ohio 72.
It will submit two new applications to the state Transportation Review Advisory Council board by May 3 in hopes of getting money for construction before 2036.
The first phase of the project is expected to cost $17.6 million and involves adding a lane from Enon Road to U.S. 68.
The second phase of the project to widen the highway between U.S. 68 and Ohio 72 will likely cost about $42.5 million.
ODOT District 7 Planning and Engineering Administrator Matt Parrill said repairs on the three bridges over the highway must be done in 2015.
However, Parrill said officials are trying to delay paving I-70 between Enon Road to Ohio 72 until at least 2016 so they can put that $5.9 million toward the widening project. But he said if road conditions deteriorate, the state might not have that option.
“We have to pursue the widening job and pay attention to the condition of the pavement. If (the road) gets below the pavement condition rating, we will probably have to move forward. But the hope is always that we’ll get the widening money,” Parrill said.
The state already delayed paving the 7.68-mile section in 2012, Parrill said, and are hoping road conditions hold up until they get funding for the widening project.
“Our best guess is that by 2016 we will have to do something … We’re at a point where we are watching the road on an annual basis,” he said.
Parrill said officials cannot wait on the repaving for 10 years or longer in order to get money for the widening project.
“We’re going to do our best not to do any throw away work or any wasted work,” Parrill said. “… But if we have to do that to take care of the (roadway) will just have to do it.”
Parrill along with Springfield Planning and Zoning Administrator Bryan Heck and other area leaders traveled to Columbus last year and told TRAC board that the widening project needs to be funded as soon as possible.
While Heck noted that widening the highway would decrease congestion and improve safety for motorists, he also said the project is critical to the region and the entire state, including for economic development.
Heck on Thursday said the city continues to push for funding for the widening project, but added supporters don’t expect ODOT to neglect highway road conditions while waiting for the state to approve I-70 construction money.
“We need continued upkeep and maintenance of our roads. The widening project is a separate issue. Hopefully, we get funding before 2036, not only for the benefit of Springfield and Clark County, but for the state of Ohio,” Heck said.