I-70 widening project moved up

About half of the remaining four-lane stretch of Interstate 70 in Clark County will be widened to six lanes next year, according to a new list of statewide road projects announced on Monday.

The $19.1 million project would widen I-70 to three lanes in both directions between Enon and U.S. 68, a stretch of road that measures about four miles. The widening is expected to take about two years, said Mandi Dillon, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Transportation.

When it’s done, the only remaining four-lane stretch of I-70 in Clark County would be the roughly 3.5 miles between U.S. 68 to Ohio 72. There is no timetable to widen that final stretch, Dillon said.

The I-70 widening is among $3 billion in state road projects over the next six years Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced Monday at a press conference in Cleveland. About $1.5 billion will come from bonds underwritten by future increased tolls paid by drivers on the Ohio Turnpike.

Under the state law that approved the turnpike borrowing, 90 percent of the money must be spent within 75 miles of the turnpike corridor. But the turnpike money will free up up funding for other projects — without the new money, the Clark County I-70 widening would have been delayed until 2027, ODOT officials said.

The I-70 widening is the only announced road project in the Miami Valley. The new transportation plan also moves up $471 million worth of projects along I-71 and I-75 in the Cincinnati area.

“By thinking outside the box we’re attacking Ohio’s highway budget deficit without a tax increase and keeping Ohio’s highways in top condition,” Kasich said in a written statement. “Our agriculture, manufacturing and logistics industries, as well as so many others, depend on our world class highway system for their success and the $3 billion in new funds made possible from our plan keeps them moving so Ohio’s economic recovery can keep moving.”

ODOT’s Transportation Review Advisory Council will meet Thursday to finalize the statewide road project list.

Government and community leaders in Clark County welcomed the news Monday.

State Rep. Ross McGregor, R-Springfield, said he was “ecstatic” to hear Gov. Kasich’s decision.

“It’s a real win for Clark County and Ohio,” said McGregor, the chairman of the House transportation subcommittee. “Clark countians are the ones who have to deal with it most frequently given the geography, but in reality it’s a win for Ohio and western Ohio. … I’m very appreciative of ODOT, the TRAC board and Gov. Kasich for making it a priority.”

McGregor also recognized local leaders, the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce and business owners who kept the pressure on state leaders on the importance of the widening project.

“Clearly, the message was received,” McGregor said.

Scott Schmid, director of the Clark County Transportation Coordinating Committee, said there was a lot of local support from governments and the business community to move the $19.1 million project to the forefront.

“It shows what happens you all pull together and really support something,” Schmid said.

Schmid said the widening will “absolutely” improve safety on I-70 in Clark County. The speed limit on that stretch of road was recently increased to 70 miles per hour.

“With the new speed limits, it’s something we’ve been concerned about,” Schmid said. “The additional lanes will definitely help move traffic through the area.”

Clark County Commissioner John Detrick called the seven-mile stretch of two lanes “a major hazard.” It’s the only area on I-70 from Clayton to Reynoldsburg that’s less than three lanes.

“It’s very positive and it will make much safer for our citizens, as well as the 50,000 cars and 20,000 trucks that drive that section every day,” Detrick said, “and that number is growing … It’s a giant step forward.”

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