Interstate 71 Widening In Delaware, Morrow Counties - NBC4: Columbus, Ohio News, Weather, and Sports (WCMH-TV)

Interstate 71 Widening In Delaware, Morrow Counties

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Interstate 71 is getting a makeover.

Construction crews are in the midst of widening a large portion of the often congested freeway.

The area between U.S. 36 and state Route 95 in Delaware and Morrow counties will be widened from two lanes to three.

The biggest change drivers will notice besides additional construction will be the lower speed limit. During the widening, sections of I-71 will be 55 mph.

The second phase will start in March just north of the interchange state Routes 36/37 where two lanes start. At the interchange, a third lane will be added.

The first phase, which began last year at S.R. 95 and continued into Richland County, is about half completed.

At an Ohio Department of Transportation project meeting Wednesday, members from both Delaware and Morrow counties asked questions about the project.

Morrow County Commissioner Tom Hardin said he knows firsthand the problems that the interstate has caused.

"I formerly was the sheriff and I would see constantly on holidays and busy weekends that the traffic on Interstate 71, if they had an accident, traffic would back up for miles," Hardin said.

The project is similar to the Interstate 670/Interstate 71 Columbus Crossroads project in that it is a design-build construction.

It saves the state time and money by combining the design phase and construction into a single process.

Hardin said the project will help improve travel time for drivers who commute out of Morrow County.

Drivers can expect to see more construction traffic in the area including a barrier wall on one side of the highway.

The plan is to keep two lanes of traffic open during the construction.

The $50 million project will also cause the closure of the Crall Road Bridge while it is being rebuilt.

The third phase of the project, which will start over the summer will involve the stretch of I-71 between state Route 61 and S.R. 95 where phase one began.

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