The Columbus Dispatch has an interesting article today on the proposed construction to reconstruct I-70/I-71 through downtown. This is basically the south and west legs of the downtown inner freeway loop in Columbus, Ohio. I can tell you from personal experience that this segment of roadway is very confusing and features extensive congestion.
There were a few key telling stats. One was that there are 830 wrecks on that fairly corridor per year, making it Ohio’s most dangerous section of road. That’s over two accidents every single day. Reconstruction won’t start until 2011 and could take up to five years. That won’t be pleasant. Naturally I’d like to see that sped up, but this type of complex downtown construction which features many weaving ramps and lanes that must be untangled, plus various serious grade separations, will clearly take a while. The price tag is a whopping $800 million.
The article cites Indianapolis and Kansas City as places that also have two interstates crisscrossing downtown. You could also throw Atlanta in there in a certain sense. I haven’t driven Kansas City, but can tell you that Indianapolis and Atlanta have superior designs to Columbus. When building the original highways, ODOT bought into obsolete thinking about how most traffic would exit, not continue through interchanges, thus dropping through traffic on I-70 and I-70 to just one lane at times. Ouch.
While this project is welcome, the fact that Columbus will have to basically use its biggest pot of funding to fix a downtown freeway that shouldn’t be broken in the first place is bad news for the rest of the metro area.