Long-awaited relief to traffic congestion near Columbus North High School, Northside Middle School and two other nearby schools will come sooner than expected.
A project to connect Maple Street with U.S. 31, known as National Road within city limits, has been moved up a year, according to Laurence Brown, director of the Columbus Area Metropolitan Planing Organization, and city engineer Dave Hayward. Construction will begin either in late 2015 or early 2016.
The project is expected to alleviate traffic congestion before and after school days at North, Northside, Schmitt Elementary and St. Bartholomew Catholic School. The four schools are within a few blocks of each other, in the area of Home Avenue and Maple, 25th and 27th streets.
A mass of students, parents and buses are trying to get into and out of the area, said Monica Coburn, the transportation manager for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.
“It’s a bottleneck,” Coburn said. “We’ve had drivers call in to say that (traffic) is completely gridlocked and not moving. We’ve had to call (the emergency) dispatch (center) so they could call an officer to direct traffic.”
According to the project, Maple would connect with U.S. 31, and vehicles either would be allowed to turn right onto Maple from U.S. 31, or right from Maple onto U.S. 31, Brown said.
“Having a straight access to 31, that would ease a lot of the pain everyone feels,” Coburn said.
The cost of the project is about $469,000, Hayward said, with federal money paying for 80 percent and a local match covering the remaining $93,800.
The need for this connection was identified during a Safe Routes to School study a couple years ago, Coburn and Hayward said.
Coburn said she was hopeful construction would begin sooner than 2015.
Several things must happen before the project can begin, Hayward said. Maple Street must be reclassified from a local street, which primarily has access to driveways and local properties, to an urban major collector, which has more through traffic and connects with larger traffic arteries in the city. Also, design work has not started on the project.
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