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I-70 widening to start, but bottleneck remains for now

Work will begin Monday to widen a portion of Interstate 70 in Clark County after years of battles over funding, but a nearly 4-mile stretch will remain a bottleneck for now.

A third lane will be added in each direction in the 4.4-mile stretch of I-70 from Enon Road to U.S. 68, a $17.5 million project expected to be completed in fall 2015.

“It will help alleviate some of the congestion on the outside of the city, but it will continue to stress that smaller section between U.S. 68 and Ohio 72. It will just emphasize the need to continue on,” said Bryan Heck, the city planning and zoning administrator.

The project had once been slated for 2036 due to tight state budgets and Ohio Department of Transportation District 7 officials still haven’t received funding to widen the remaining stretch of between U.S. 68 to Ohio 72.

ODOT spokeswoman Mandi Dillon said officials are expected to apply again for funding through the Transportation Review Advisory Council between April and June. TRAC sets funding priorities for state construction projects.

Currently I-70 from Enon Road to Ohio 72 goes from three lanes in western Clark County to two lanes around Springfield and then back to three lanes east of the city.

Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee Director Scott Schmid and others said that both sections of the highway need to be widened to reduce congestion.

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.

The total number of collisions in the same areas are 131 and 191 crashes, respectively, from 2010 to 2012, according to Schmid.

Dillon said the widening of I-70 from Enon Road to U.S. 68 will alleviate congestion, provide a smoother commute between Columbus and Dayton and accommodate projected increases in traffic along the highway.

She said construction will include upgrades to ramps at Enon Road, improved pavement conditions, the installation of cable barriers in the median, and the installation of a noise wall in western Clark County near Pleasant Valley Estates, which is located near Tecumseh Road.

Motorists can expect nightly lane closures in each direction from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. every Friday and Saturday, starting Monday and lasting throughout the month of April.

ODOT officials said I-70 from Enon to U.S. 68 is one of just a few areas between Dayton and Columbus that remains only two lanes in each direction.

“By widening that section of I-70, it’s going to increase the capacity for traffic from now into the future,” Dillon said. “This is going to really help because motorists will not have to slow down and merge into two lane traffic.”

State Rep. Ross McGregor, R-Springfield, said the construction between Enon Road to U.S. 68 was moved up to this spring due in part to a transportation bill that included a provision that allowed Gov. John Kasich to borrow $1.5 billion on the Ohio Turnpike.

“We’re getting into the final push to widen I-70 all the way through Clark County … I’m excited it’s going to get started,” said

Under the law, 90 percent of the revenue must be spent on projects within 75 miles of the toll road. The remaining money can be spent on the state’s Tier I or high priority projects.

McGregor, who sponsored the bill passed last year, said it advanced many Ohio construction projects, including the I-70 widening project.

“The legislation did not specifically call for the widening of I-70, but it made available funds … for projects that we would not have been able to move up,” McGregor said.

Clark County Commissioner Rick Lohnes said the local fight, along with the backing of state officials like McGregor, helped spur the widening project.

“The pressure that was started by the city, townships and the county had a positive effect,” Lohnes said.

Clark County Commissioner John Detrick said he hopes TRAC will fund the widening of the remaining two-lane section between U.S. 68 and Ohio 72 by 2017 or 2018. Construction to widen that part is expected to cost about $40 million, according to ODOT and TCC officials.

“It continues to make the case locally for why we have to continue on. We keep shortening and shortening that gap. If you look at it on a map of the entire state and you have that whole section between Dayton and Columbus and now we have three miles to complete,” Schmid said.

“It’s the bigger, the more expensive phase that we need to get done still,” he said. “But it makes the most sense now that we’ve come this far that we have to get that piece done.”

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