I-70 widening to be finished this week

Completion of project months ahead of schedule.

By the Numbers

$18 million: Cost of phase one of I-70 widening project

$52.4 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

Staying with the story

The Springfield News-Sun has reported on the stages of the widening of Interstate 70 through Clark County since efforts to get the projects funded first began. We will continue to keep you updated on the proposed widening of the final 3.46-mile stretch of the highway.

Crews are expected to finish widening Interstate 70 between Enon Road and U.S. 68 by the end of this week, months ahead of schedule.

A third lane was added in each direction in the 3.8-mile stretch of I-70, a $18 million project that was expected to be completed by Oct. 31. Crews began the project in March 2014.

Mandi Dillon, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Transportation District 7, said contractors are expected to wrap up construction this week after replacing various signs, repairing eroded areas, fixing damaged median cable barrier, removing work zone signs and doing other clean-up.

The 3.46 miles of the roadway from U.S. 68 to Ohio 72 remains two lanes in both directions of I-70. Construction to widen that stretch is not expected to begin until 2019, creating a bottleneck and causing congestion along the roadway, Dillon said.

“The concern is just that you could create somewhat of a slowdown because people do have to merge from three into two lanes. So that is why the ultimate goal is to get that to be three lanes all the way through,” she said.

Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee Director Scott Schmid has said the site is the most traveled route in Clark County and needed to be widened to six lanes to eliminate bottlenecks and because of safety concerns.

About 55,000 to 66,000 motorists travel I-70 from Enon Road to U.S. 68 daily, and about 65,000 to 70,000 motorists travel along I-70 from U.S. 68 to Ohio 72 daily, according to the TCC.

Construction on the first phase of the project — widening I-70 from Enon Road to U.S. 68 — had been delayed until 2036, but was moved up 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.

Schmid said the second phase of the project likely will not receive funding ahead of fiscal year 2020 due to its $52.4 million price tag. The second phase of the project includes adding a lane in the east and westbound lanes from U.S. 68 to Ohio 72, redoing the existing four lanes and replacing six bridges.

“(The year) 2020 is still a long ways out, but it’s a lot better than the alternative (2036),” Schmid said.

Melody Metz, of Springfield, who lives about a mile south from I-70, said she’s happy a portion of the widening project has been completed and will be happy when the entire project is done.

“When the construction is going on, you have bumper-to-bumper traffic up across the bridge on 70 and the overpass. It’s bad,” Metz said.

Metz said she has lived in the area more than 40 years and has seen the amount of traffic increase over the years. She feels the highway needs to be widened to accommodate the traffic.

“People drive more and we have more of the semi trucks coming through transporting and this end of Clark County has grown, so we really needed the expanded lanes through 70,” Metz said.

Clark County Commissioner Rick Lohnes was among several local leaders who traveled to Columbus in 2012 when state transportation officials were told the widening of I-70 was critical to area economic development.

Lohnes said Monday he was pleased the first phase of the project was complete and praised District 7, the TCC and other transportation officials for fighting to get construction done before 2036.

“We’re very pleased with what has happened … It’ll take a while to get that (second phase) finished, but at least its a very small portion,” Lohnes said.

Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, said he, too, is pleased about the completion of the first phase of the I-70 widening project.

He added that he continues to push for construction to begin sooner than 2020 on the second phase of the project.

“I’ve talked with ODOT about that. It continues to be something that is still farther off than I’m happy with,” Koehler said.

But he added that the situation could be worse.

“The good news about it is its a shelf project, which means everything is done on it besides the construction,” Koehler said. “If some other project that ODOT has gets proposed or hits a glitch, this project can be started right away, because it is an issue of safety.

“The sooner it gets done the better,” he added.

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