Local transportation officials hope to convince a state board to pay for a $43 million project to widen the remaining portion of Interstate 70 once the first phase of the project is completed in 2016.
Ohio Department of Transportation District 7 officials will submit an application this month for construction money to widen the last 3.4-mile, four-lane stretch on I-70 from U.S. 68 to Ohio 72.
They also plan to present to the Transportation Review Advisory Council on Sept. 25 reasons to move the project up on a priority list so construction could begin in two years. Local leaders have repeatedly said leaving a portion of the road as four lanes creates a bottle neck that is a safety hazard and restricts economic development.
Crews began in late March adding a third lane in both directions on I-70 from Enon Road to U.S. 68 as part of the first phase of the I-70 widening project. The $17.5 million project is expected to be completed in 2016.
Officials now need funding for the second phase of the project, which includes adding a third lane in the east and westbound lanes from U.S. 68 to Ohio 72, redoing the existing four lanes and replacing six bridges.
ODOT District 7 Planning and Engineering Administrator Matt Parrill said officials have design plans as well as $3 million set aside for pavement and bridge repairs that can be used toward construction.
That means the second phase would be ready to go when the current construction wraps up in 2016, if funding can be secured.
“This section of I-70 will be the only section remaining between western Montgomery County and State Route 256 in Fairfield County that is not widened to a six-lane corridor,” Parrill said.
The first phase of the I-70 project under construction now had once been slated for 2036 due to tight state budgets, but was moved up to this spring, due in part to a transportation bill that allowed Gov. John Kasich to borrow $1.5 billion on the Ohio Turnpike, state Rep. Ross McGregor, R-Springfield, said.
The second phase of the widening project won’t benefit from those funds, ODOT officials said.
Regardless of the availability of funding, McGregor said local leaders must prove to the TRAC board that widening I-70 is important to the local and state economy.
“The funding is going to be what the funding will be. If it’s the desire of the TRAC board, the money will be there. That’s why we need to make the case as to why we need to continue construction,” McGregor said.
The widening of I-70 is critical because it will allow for the efficient moving of people and goods locally and statewide, said McGregor and others, including Bryan Heck, the city planning and zoning administrator.
Another key point Parrill plans to make before TRAC is that funding for phase two should be designated before the $3 million is spent on pavement and bridges in that section of the highway in 2016.
“The existing infrastructure — pavement and bridges — will soon need routine maintenance in order to address system conditions and to extend service life,” Parrill said.
Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee Director Scott Schmid said transportation officials want to widen I-70 before the repairs are needed.
“It is important to do the entire project first before the repairs. It just makes good sense,” Schmid said. “If we go through another couple winters like we just had, you’ll have to address the pavement conditions. You’ll have to do something if they can’t get the money for the added lane.”
In addition, Parrill said once construction is completed between Enon and U.S. 68, congestion will increase between I-70 from U.S. 68 to Ohio 72.
About 55,000 motorists travel from Enon Road to U.S. 68 daily, and about 60,000 drivers travel along the portion from U.S. 68 to Ohio 72 daily, according to Schmid.
The total number of collisions in the same areas are 131 and 191 crashes, respectively, from 2010 to 2012, according to Schmid.
Heck said it will be critical for the remaining portion of I-70 to be widen once phase one is completed.
“It will create more of a choke point,” Heck said.
Staying with the story
Springfield News-Sun Reporter Tiffany Y. Latta has reported on local efforts to widen Interstate 70 since 2011, digging into important questions about public safety and economic development.