Four of the five suggested routes for an Olentangy Trail connection pass the new OhioHealth corporate campus and across West North Broadway near the busy Route 315 interchange.
That alarms many residents, said Judy Minister, an agent for the Clintonville area, whose district includes and is adjacent to the project zone.
“Let’s not bring cars and people together here,” said the minister. She described the spot as dangerous, especially when traffic was leaving Route 315 east.
City officials will therefore consider building a bridge over West North Broadway to address these concerns.
“I think we’re going to be looking very, very carefully with the Department of Public Service,” said Brad Westall, program manager for the Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks.
The project is already expensive: $ 5 million, $ 3.75 million in federal funding comes from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, and the remaining $ 1.25 million from the city.
Four of the five suggested routes already include two bridges over the Olentangy. A third over West North Broadway would obviously add to that cost.
“We need to know if it is buildable,” said Westall. “How does a third bridge affect the environment?”
Former Clintonville resident Peter Wray, who now lives in the Knolls neighborhood off Olentangy River Road, believes the city is ignoring residents’ concerns.
Asking people to cross West North Broadway near the intersection “seems incredibly insane,” Wray said.
“Nobody is against the plug. They want a secure connection,” he said.
The existing trail takes cyclists, runners, and walkers through five city streets in Clintonville: Riverside Drive, Delhi Avenue, Milton Avenue, West Kenworth Road, and Olentangy Boulevard.
The intersection of West North Broadway and Milton Avenue is very busy. According to the Mid-Ohio Regional Traffic Commission in 2016, 24,765 vehicles drove daily on West North Broadway west of the intersection and 21,778 vehicles daily east of the intersection. Daily traffic on Milton in 2016 was 2,659 vehicles north of the intersection and 1,674 vehicles south of the intersection.
“It has always been dangerous,” said the minister. Bicycles pass red lights and motorists speed down Broadway every hour of the day, “she said.
Compared to 2016, the daily traffic on West North Broadway near the OhioHealth campus is 22,502 vehicles.
Mark Silnes of Clintonville compared crossing West North Broadway near the OhioHealth campus to the 1980s video game “Frogger” in which players tried to get their frog down a busy street.
“It’s worse than the existing Milton location,” said Silnes, who walks and cycles the trail.
“We want to bring the main pedestrian and bike path into the city center, where there is a blind spot for drivers exiting from (Route) 315,” he said.
Westall said he understands people’s concerns, but notes that there are other places the trail intersects busy streets, such as Spring and Long Streets near Route 315 west of downtown.
Westall said the city has received requests from residents living west of the river to extend the route to this side of the Olentangy so they could have better access to it.
Minister said the fifth option – connecting the road along the east side of the Olentangy – was not feasible for them as the city needed to acquire private property.
Westall acknowledged the route would have a major impact on homeowners and the environment.
The city is accepting comments on the five options of the project through February 22nd. Participants can review and comment on the options at: https://www.columbus.gov/recreationandparks/trails/Olentangy-Trail/.
The construction work should not be completed until 2024.
The 13-mile Olentangy Trail is the most popular in the state, with approximately 500,000 users per year. It connects Downtown Columbus and Worthington and passes Ohio State University.
“Our position has always been a city decision,” said Mark Hopkins, OhioHealth spokesman. “We thought it was a good thing for the community.”