COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Stretches of Front Street and Marconi Boulevard in Downtown Columbus will be converted to two-way traffic, likely by the last quarter of 2024.
Columbus City Council voted Monday to fund the project, which came with a $13.9 million total price tag. The city will foot most of the bill — allocating $8.5 million — and the Ohio Public Works Commission will put $4.4 million and the Central Ohio Transit Authority will put $1 million toward the project, according to a city public service spokesperson.
Contractors will transform several blocks of each road, changing them from one-way to two-way traffic. On Front Street, that will eventually run from Broad Street near Columbus City Hall to West Hickory Street near Nationwide, and on Marconi Boulevard, from Broad to Spring Street.
James Young, an engineer and administrator with the Columbus Department of Public Service, said the city’s intention is to remove confusion for drivers while making the roadways and associated sidewalks safer for everyone else.
“It’s going to make it a lot easier to get around,” Young said.
Some cities across the country in recent years, including Columbus, have converted one-way streets back to two-way streets. Many cite research that shows two-way streets slow traffic flow, increasing safety for those who are biking or walking. Portions of Marconi and Front Street already allow for two-way traffic.
In addition to easier-to-navigate streets for drivers, COTA spokesperson Jeff Pullin said the conversion will streamline four COTA bus routes. Right now, routes 4, 7, 9, and 11 run northbound on Front Street and southbound on Marconi Boulevard.
“Even though Marconi is a very well-traveled area, moving all of the lines to Front Street — north and southbound — gets people closer to Downtown where they work, closer to City Hall where a lot of people work, and just makes it more accessible to those jobs that people are using those lines to get to,” Pullin said.
COTA believes that having those routes on the same street, instead of the current deviation, will save between $100,000 to $150,000 each year, he said.
Construction could begin as early as June, Young said, and will be done in four phases.
“When you shut it down, you want to shut it down for a while for them to do meaningful work, and for people to get adjusted,” Young said. “Right now, the fact that it’s one way means we’re just losing the lane in one direction.”
Although the city has finally secured and greenlit funding for the project, Young said it is not the first time these stretches of Front and Marconi have been slated for the same conversion — and project costs have skyrocketed since then. A proposal for the same project on the city’s website, with a 2012 to 2014 timeline, estimated the cost at just under $7 million.
“This was estimated last, I think the engineer’s estimate was around $11 million, and this came in at $13 (million),” Young said.
City officials have generally grappled with double-digit inflation on construction project costs in recent years, he said.
The legislation came three months after Columbus City Council voted to lower the speed limits on downtown roads from 35 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour in an effort to reduce fatal crashes and make streets safer for those biking and walking.
Young estimated that construction would finish sometime in the fall of 2024 — likely in October or November — if the project stays on track.