Officials work to alleviate I-70, S.R. 256 headaches
Congestion near the intersection of I-70 and S.R. 256 has been a source of concern for the city of Pickerington for some time.
“The two-mile section of State Route 256 from I-70 to just north of Refugee Road is No. 75 on the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) ‘Hot Spot’ list of non-freeway crash locations in the state,” City Engineer Greg Bachman said.
According to data compiled by the city’s staff and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), between 2003 and 2007, there were 183 accidents at the intersection of Hill Road North (S.R. 256) and Tussing Road, which is the western portion of the road that is also known as S.R. 204.
That intersection has an average of approximately 35 accidents per year, according to the data.
ODOT controls four signals on S.R. 256 near the I-70 intersection, the signals at each of the ramps, the signal at S.R. 256 and S.R. 204, and the signal on S.R. 256 in front of Marcus Cinemas, he said.
According to Bachman, because the signals at these intersections are controlled by ODOT and are not synchronized with the signals controlled by the city, it is a significant source of the congestion.
Bachman added that Pickerington upgraded its traffic signal system nearly a year and a half ago and it works extremely well, perhaps so well that it overwhelms ODOT’s system at those intersections.
Congestion is worst during the morning rush hour when traffic is heading into Columbus and during weekends when traffic is headed northbound toward the retail centers, he said.
“The accidents we’ve had are highly correlated to the congestion,” Bachman said. “The high number of crashes is why the city is looking to apply for an ODOT Safety Grant for State Route 256.”
The grant the city is currently in the process of applying for would be used to possibly create a third southbound lane and widen S.R. 256 among other potential improvements, Bachman said in June.
Bachman also conducted a speed study in early summer, which indicated the speed limit should be dropped from 50 mph to 40 or 45 mph.
At that time, Bachman provided a rough estimate of the total cost of the project to range between $3 million and $5 million.
In addition to the issue of timing the signals, Bachman explained there are no battery back-ups on some of the ODOT controlled signals, which can make matters worse during thunderstorms, especially during rush hour.
According to Kate Stickle of ODOT, it plans to install battery back-ups on the ramp signals at I-70 in the spring.
Stickle said ODOT also intends to conduct a study of the timing of the system.
The study examines the traffic count, the timing between the drives, the number of turn lanes, the amount of traffic in peak hours and the total number of lanes on the road, she explained.
Stickle was unable to say when the study would get under way, but did estimate that it would take about one month to conduct the study.
“After the study is complete, we will work with the city to proceed with the recommendations from the study,” Stickle said.