Improvements sought for major gateway into Springfield

Local planners asked Springfield residents to take a fresh look at a section of South Limestone Street on Thursday night as they want to develop a long-term plan for one of the main arteries into the city.

The Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordination Committee has hired a consulting firm to develop a plan for a two-mile stretch of the major corridor from Leffel Lane to Spring Street. Residents brought up a wide range of issues from local businesses they like along the roadway to concerns about traffic and safety.

“This is the gateway to Springfield,” said Will Bowers, a Springfield resident. “When you drive on it, there’s nothing to welcome you into town.”

The study is in its earliest stages, so Thursday night was a chance to ask residents what they think of the area now, said Steve Thieken, a senior transportation planner for Burgess and Niple, a consulting firm hired to conduct the $119,000 study.

“This is the ground floor of a corridor study so there is no project to speak of,” Thieken said.

Improving the corridor could take years, said Mike McDorman, president and CEO of the Chamber of Greater Springfield. But developing a realistic plan is an important first step, he said, because it has the potential to attract development and draw people into downtown Springfield.

“This is our most important gateway and corridor into our community,” McDorman said. “Let’s make it our statement to the rest of the world we’re open for business.”

One suggestion in the long run, McDorman said, could include a themed interchange at I-70 and Ohio 72 that could draw retail, similar to sites like Austin Landing in Springboro.

A roundabout at East John Street also could slow traffic leading into the more residential section of the road and into downtown. But ultimately, it will be up to residents to decide, he said.

“This is a great opportunity for some honest dialogue that could really propel us forward,” McDorman said.

It’s a good chance to find out whether residents have any concerns local leaders aren’t aware of, said Jim Bodenmiller, Springfield city manager. City officials have heard concerns ranging from aesthetic issues to areas that may need repairs. Input from residents will drive what the corridor ultimately looks like, he said.

“It really is a blank slate,” Bodenmiller said.

Tina Verrien, who lives in the area, said she’d like to see more done to improve safety, both for pedestrians and cars trying to navigate busy intersections.

A second meeting will likely take place later this summer, allowing residents to view maps of possible solutions and plans for the corridor, Thieken said. A final proposal could be available as early as this fall.

Getting input from residents now is key because if people in the community don’t like the plan, it’s unlikely to make any progress, said Scott Schmid, transportation director for TCC.

“We really wanted to start with the people on our side to begin with,” Schmid said.

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