A long-planned $52 million project to widen Interstate 70 and improve safety between U.S. 68 and Ohio 72 in Clark County is expected to begin construction in July, a year ahead of schedule.
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The project was previously set to begin in July of 2019, Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee Director Scott Schmid said, but was recently moved up by the Ohio Department of Transportation.
The initial planning for the project began in 2002, Schmid said, about a year before he joined TCC.
“We’ve been working on it phase by phase,” he said. “It will be nice to get this one put away.”
The project is expected to last about two full seasons with major construction beginning in 2019. The project is expected to be completed in early 2021, he said.
“Hopefully they have a smooth construction and keep everyone safe,” he said.
The $18 million Phase 1 of the project from Enon to U.S. 68 was completed in the fall of 2015. A third lane was added in each direction in that 3.8-mile stretch of I-70, which took nearly a year-and-a-half to complete.
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The 3.46 miles of the roadway from U.S. 68 to Ohio 72 remains two lanes in both directions of I-70. The second phase of the project includes adding a lane in the east and westbound lanes in that section, redoing the existing four lanes and replacing six aging bridges.
The project at one time had been delayed until 2036.
The improvements will reduce congestion for trucks hauling freight and improve traffic safety issues, Schmid said.
“Hopefully it keeps interstate traffic on the interstate and away from the downtown area, especially during rush hour,” he said.
It also should decrease commuter delay, Schmid said.
“A pretty ordinary fender-bender on the side of the road ends up slowing everything down to one through lane,” he said. “(With three lanes), if one gets shut down, you still have two through lanes and it’s much, much easier to navigate. That’ll be very helpful to us.”
The state has twice applied for federal money to move construction forward but the project wasn’t selected. However as other projects were completed, ODOT saved enough money to begin the I-70 project in Clark County, he said.
“The cost savings from other projects come back into the pot and then they go back through and move up everything that they can,” Schmid said. “I think that probably helped move it along.”
A $5 million design for the project has already been completed, meaning the state was ready to start construction once funding became available.
Springfield is the lone two-lane area where traffic drops down to two lanes in the stretch between Dayton and Columbus.
ODOT recently spent about $300,000 to install traffic signals at the busy Interstate 70 interchange near Ohio 72 to reduce traffic backups. The signals will be located at the westbound entrance and exit ramps. They’re expected to be operational sometime this month, Schmid said.
In 2016, local leaders sought $3 million in federal funding to create a 4-H themed interchange there, which they say will improve safety and beautify one of the city’s most important gateways. The project also would reconfigure the intersection and replace the traffic signal at South Limestone Street and Leffel Lane, currently ranked by the TCC as a top safety location priority in the community.
The traffic is heavy at times through the morning and the afternoon due to congestion from both Clark State Community College students and Assurant employees, leaders told the Springfield News-Sun last month.
The themed interchange isn’t included in the I-70 widening project, Schmid said.
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By the Numbers
$18 million: Cost of phase one of I-70 widening project
$52 million: Cost of phase two of I-70 widening project
55,000-66,000: Number of motorists who travel I-70 from Enon Road to U.S. 68 daily
65,000-70,000: Number of motorists who travel I-70 from U.S. 68 to Ohio 72 daily
The Springfield News-Sun digs into important public safety issues, including recent stories about roundabouts proposed for Springfield and long-time efforts to widen Interstate 70 in Clark County.