Reconstruction of Canal Winchester’s West Columbus Street is finally underway.
"The Columbus Street project has been on our five year Capital Improvement Plan since 1998," said Public Works Director Matt Peoples. "Its physical condition and usage predicated the need for this improvement. Other projects, such as the two Waterloo projects, took funding away from Columbus Street, thus delaying it. In 2005, we submitted for an OPWC (Ohio Public Works Commission) grant and were denied funding. In 2006 we tried again and were successful. We began engineering in March of 2007, bid the project and opened bids in January of 2008, and approved legislation for project in February of 2008. Construction will commence by March 31 and completed by Dec. 31."
About the project
The project is a total reconstruction and consists of a new, asphalt paved roadway; curbs and gutters; sidewalks; streetlights; and a new mast arm signal at Columbus and Washington Streets. Specific parking areas made of pervious concrete-in order to save most of the larger street trees-will be installed from High Street to Washington Street.
According to Peoples, there are 35 properties directly affected by the project. However, the entire community will be affected by the 100 day road closure from Washington to High streets.
"That section must be open to two-way vehicular traffic and pedestrian traffic by Aug. 18 for the Labor Day Festival," reported Peoples. "Construction is to be completed in 180 days, utility relocations begin near March 1, and selected trees will begin to be removed in mid-March."
Estimated cost for the project is more than $1.4 million. The commission is covering $1.12 million in the form of a $665,717 grant and $456,000 loan, with the village paying the remainder of the cost.
The road to reconstruction was not paved with bliss. Prior to council’s final approval of the project in February, Columbus Street residents frequented meetings and complained about a perceived lack of communication regarding a December public meeting, removal of trees, and the reconfigured size of the street.
Peoples said the project required a public hearing, which was done on site, and residents were asked to fill out a form stating their concerns. In addition, Finance Director Nanisa Osborn pointed out in February, that residents were also notified of the meeting through direct mailing.
Construction Services Administrator Bill Sims previously stated trees were a huge concern and the village addressed the problem by creating bump-outs. While he admitted it is true a lot of trees will be lost due to construction, most are small and will be moved and two larger trees were already tagged to be removed. He told residents, if the desire was to keep the same tree lawn, the village would have to eliminate parking on one side of the street and the impact of changing the design during the project was substantial.
Regarding street width, Peoples said it was the village engineer’s opinion they need the street width planned for the project in designing for the future with a 20 year build out. Peoples also said Columbus Street is a connector linking two major north-south corridors and there are a lot of cars that use the street. East Columbus Street is at least 36 feet wide and the proposed lane width on West Columbus is two 10.5 foot lanes, not including parking spaces.
Original plans for Columbus Street called for a five foot sidewalk with 18 inches of green space, curb to walk. After listening to the concerns of residents, the village decided to narrow the sidewalks to four feet and set back an additional six inches from the curb, thus allowing for three feet or more of green space/tree space. However, the width of the street was not changed.
EMH&T engineer Steve Farst said a traffic count was conducted in 2005 and updated in 2006 and the village was required to design the program based on what they observed. Even though the former middle school is not generating as much traffic now as it did two years ago, repurposing of the structure has not been fully determined and Farst stated it would be irresponsible to design travel lanes without consideration for the future.
Historically, Peoples said not much is known about Columbus Street itself, although it shows up on village maps from the 1930s and was once called West Street. Workers have not encountered a cobblestone or brick base in the street.