New work center now crash central
Engineers studying how to cut backups near Rickenbacker
Monday, October 6, 2008 3:06 AM
By Tim Doulin
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
The hardest part of Louis Stando’s commute from Whitehall often begins when he is almost to work.
When he gets off I-270 at Alum Creek Drive, vehicles often are backed up from the traffic signal at Groveport Road to the interstate. It can take more than 10 minutes to travel the 1,500 feet from the interstate through the intersection.
“It doesn’t really matter what time of day it is,” said Stando, 58, a forklift operator at nearby Exel. “It is always a mess up here.”
It didn’t always used to be that way. But with the addition of the intermodal terminal adjacent to Rickenbacker Airport as well as more warehouses and businesses in recent years, the number of tractor-trailers and other vehicles has increased.
“I can remember not too long ago when the Alum Creek corridor basically had no development in it, so that interchange was built to serve a rural area,” said Bob Lawler, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission transportation director.
“But the main problem is, the Groveport Road intersection is so close to the interchange that the traffic backs up from one to the other. And it just makes it an unsafe and complicated location.”
Franklin County, the Ohio Department of Transportation and others are studying how to improve the I-270 interchange. Improvements are already in the works for the Alum Creek Drive-Groveport Road intersection, which is the top crash intersection in Obetz.
A total of 98 crashes occurred at the intersection from 2004 through 2006, including 18 that resulted in injuries. The average daily traffic count at the location is 38,225.
“We’ve had no fatalities, but there have been enough fender-benders,” said Doug Browell, Obetz administrator.
About $4 million will be spent to improve the intersection, including adding, lengthening and widening turn lanes to accommodate tractor-trailers and eliminate bottlenecks. But design work and right-of-way issues might delay the start of construction until 2012, ODOT said.
“That is intended to be more of a short-term fix.” Lawler said. “That way, there will be an improvement there and it will relieve some of the pressure for a little while, and that will give time to look for funding and finish the interchange.”
MORPC recently approved giving Franklin County $140,000 to study the interchange.
The interchange’s entrance and exit ramps are the main issues that need to be addressed, Franklin County Engineer Dean Ringle said.
“It is not a complete interchange in the sense that there are ramps in all four directions,” Ringle said. “The northbound and southbound Alum Creek traffic both merge onto the same ramp to get onto 270 west. There is land on the west side to have an entrance ramp over there.”
ODOT, Pickaway County and the Columbus Regional Airport Authority also are working with Franklin County to study the issue, but there are no immediate plans to upgrade the interchange.
In the meantime, drivers deal with the traffic.
Cars use the left-hand lane to pass, and then pull in front of slow-moving trucks to make turns. Vehicles often make turns in front of oncoming traffic after the traffic signal has turned red.
Mae Kinney, 73, of Obetz said her niece was in a crash at the intersection a few years ago but was not injured.
“It has just got worse since they built all these businesses around here,” said Kinney, who has lived in Obetz 12 years. “The intersection really needs improvement.”