State and regional transportation officials have scheduled a series of public meetings as part of a study into ways to improve traffic flows on an increasingly congested stretch of Route 23 between Columbus and the Marion County line.
Possible solutions include an upgrade of the existing route between Interstate 270 and the village of Waldo, with new overpasses and interchanges, or new roadway connections to divert traffic flow to U.S. Route 33 to the west or Interstate 71 to the east.
Anthony Turowski, a planning engineer for ODOT District 6 and project manager for the Route 23 study, said no definitive plans have been made.
ODOT, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments are launching a $2 million study that will include opportunities for public comment, and officials hope to develop recommendations for improvements by mid-2022.
“We don’t know the answer until we run the numbers and talk to people,” Turowski said, adding later, “This is a big problem on an important corridor for the people locally, for the region and really, for the whole state. We want to preserve it and improve it.”
Traffic volumes already are running 30% higher than some sections of Route 23 — mostly in Delaware County — were designed to handle, Turowski said.
In 1990, traffic along the nearly 25-mile stretch of road averaged about 55,000 vehicles a day near the intersection of Route 23 and I-270 to the south and 17,000 per day at Route 229 (Norton Road), the signaled intersection just before the road becomes a divided highway at Waldo to the north.
Today, the average vehicle counts have reached about 80,000 vehicles at Route 23/I-270 and 30,000 at Waldo. And one in seven of those vehicles are tractor-trailers.
“We expect that to grow, because the trucks are growing at a faster rate than passenger vehicles,” Turowski said.
In addition, there are 38 traffic lights between Worthington and the Marion County line that further slow the flow of traffic.
“Each one of those is a tradeoff,” Turowski said. “It allows people to access goods and services, all the cross routes on the transportation network. That’s all good, but each one of those (stoplights) is a little bit of friction on the system… ODOT doesn’t have a magic wand, we can’t just turn it into a freeway.”
Funding ultimately will dictate the timing of any potential projects.
“These are big improvements,” Turowski said.
A half-dozen public meetings are scheduled in July to gain public comments on potential improvements. The online sessions will take place July 7, July 13 and July 14 at noon and 5 p.m. each day, organized geographically by participants’ residences. Full details and registration information are available online at: publicinput.com/23connect
The website also includes an online survey about potential Route 23 improvements and space for additional public comments.
“We want to really hear from everybody. We want to score (the different options) and give everything a fair shake,” Turowski said. “… Each concept has pros and cons — costs, impacts, where does traffic want to go.”