COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Columbus will kick another $25 million to the Ohio Department of Transportation for its megaproject along Interstates 70 and 71 south of Downtown.
Columbus City Council voted for the funding, which will go toward construction of three bridges, finishing touches on the roadway, and other crossways. The projects the city is contributing to are largely between Fourth Street and Miller Avenue.
ODOT plans to construct bridge caps on Third, Fourth, and High streets as part of one phase of the project. Rather than restoring the current bridges, the bridge caps will be substantially wider and more friendly to those biking or walking across them, Councilmember Lourdes Barroso de Padilla said.
In renderings shown at a city council meeting Monday, each side of a bridge’s roadway will be flanked by wider sidewalks with greenery and shrubs. The Third Street rendering, connecting downtown to the edge of the German Village, will feature a building on either side — masking the interstate underneath.
ODOT will draw influence from the cap that connects downtown Columbus to the Short North above Interstate 670.
That bridge cap on High Street, finished in October 2004, sought to reconnect Downtown with the now-bustling arts, entertainment, and nightlife district after construction of the interstate had “severed” it, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation project profile. City leaders want to see the proposed caps serve the same reconnective purpose.
“Thanks to council, we have really done a great job at making it not just look like a freeway cutting through our city,” said Columbus Public Service Director Jennifer Gallagher.
I-70/I-71 Downtown Ramp Up projects years in the making, with years to go
But the overarching ODOT project — called Downtown Ramp Up — was in the planning stages more than two decades ago, and its current phases of construction won’t come and go overnight.
“A lot of work will continue to be happening in this area over the years to come — I hate to say — but you will really start to see that we’re connecting the communities back together with the Downtown area,” Gallagher said. “That’s really what these bridges, that will no longer just look like bridges, are really all about.”
Before Monday and since 2019, the council has allocated $51 million of the $98 million it pledged to ODOT for the megaproject on the I-70/I-71 corridor. Downtown Ramp Up — which is being funded by a mix of federal, state and local dollars — will cost $1.4 billion, according to a city project fact sheet.
ODOT has construction scheduled through at least 2026, according to the factsheet. Work on the proposed Third, Fourth, and High street connections will begin in 2024.
Columbus flush with road, other construction
Council also voted Monday for more than an additional $3 million in funds for two pedestrian safety projects — one along Livingston Avenue from 18th Street to Nelson Road and another along Cleveland Avenue from Fifth Avenue to Lehner Road.
All three projects are part of the city’s larger Vision Zero plan, Barroso de Padilla said. The city launched the initiative in 2021, targeting infrastructure that will reduce the number of fatal crashes in the city.
But construction in Columbus and its surrounding communities is not just relegated to the roads — the region is seeing a “thrust” of construction projects, said Mike Knisley, executive secretary-treasurer of the Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council.
“It seems like we’ve been sitting on this demand for a while now,” Knisley said earlier. “All of a sudden, everyone wants everything built at the same time.”
Demand across the state is high for construction workers, but he said Ohio is not yet at code red.