Start of $48M fix to I-70 choke point is days away

Sixteen years in the works and just days away from beginning, the $48 million widening of a section of Interstate 70 at Springfield promises to make the drive between Dayton and Columbus smoother and safer.

But first, there’s going to be some pain.

Randy Chevalley, director of Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) District 7, talked about upcoming area transportation projects at an I-70/75 Economic Development Association meeting Friday. Chevalley outlined what is considered the biggest project — the plan to add a lane in each direction of Interstate 70 in Clark County from U.S. 68 to Ohio 72 at the southern edge of Springfield.

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Asked what he saw as the biggest project ahead for motorists, Montgomery County Engineer Paul Gruner — who also was at the association’s meeting — didn’t hesitate: “Probably that I-70 project … between here and Springfield.”

“Everything will be at least three lanes between Dayton and Columbus once that’s done,” Gruner said.

“That’s going to be a big one,” Chevalley told listeners at a Sinclair Community College breakfast meeting.

Some 65,000 to 70,000 motorists use that stretch of I-70 daily, Scott LeBlanc, ODOT District 7 construction engineer, has told this news outlet.

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The 3.5-mile I-70 widening is slated to begin Aug. 9 with a September 2021 completion date. Traffic is to be maintained in two lanes in each direction during construction.

Area advocates have pushed for the work for years, with many motorists regarding that stretch of the interstate as a dreaded choke point. Supporters also emphasized the work would make the area safer and enhance the region’s logistics business.

Springfield is the lone area where traffic drops to two lanes in the stretch between Dayton and Columbus.

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Work will include the replacement of three pairs of mainline bridges, replacement of a culvert and the installation of cable guardrail in the median, according to a letter from the Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee to the Dayton Development Coalition, advocating for funding in fiscal year 2016.

Once completed, the roadway section will have three 12-foot lanes and a 12-foot inside and outside shoulder in each direction.

The hope is that the new lanes will ease congestion, create more pavement surface and safer bridge conditions for drivers — and cut travel time for regional employers and freight shippers.

“This has been on the books for a long time,” Chevalley said Friday.

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At one point, the project had been targeted to begin construction in 2036.

Officials lobbied to change that, and work had been set to begin in July 2019, but Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee Director Scott Schmid said earlier this year, ODOT moved the project up again.

The initial planning for the project began in 2002, Schmid said.

“We’ve been working on it phase by phase,” he said earlier this year. “It will be nice to get this one put away.”

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