COLUMBUS — As part of Ohio’s efforts to be a leader in using technology to improve traffic and safety in the state, construction began in Columbus last week on the state’s first SmartLane; a seven-mile stretch of Interstate 670 between downtown and the John Glenn International Airport.
The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) will be converting the left-side shoulder into an additional travel lane during peak travel times, called a SmartLane. This is the first project of its kind in the state.
“This project is a smart investment for Ohio. By re-purposing the shoulder, which already exists, and investing in state-of-the-art technology, we are able to decrease congestion in this corridor without the high costs and long timelines associated with highway widening,” said ODOT Director Jerry Wray.
State-of-the-art digital overhead signs will be installed every three-quarters of a mile to let motorists know if the lane is open to traffic or closed by displaying either a red “X” or a green arrow. The SmartLane will generally be open Monday through Friday during the evening rush hour, about 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. The lane will only be opened during off-peak times if traffic conditions warrant a need for it.
The state’s most recent biennial budget legislation also gave ODOT the authority to lower the speed limits on I-670 when the SmartLane is open.
“It might sound counter-intuitive, but studies have shown travelling at slower speeds actually keeps traffic moving better because it avoids the ‘stop and go’ conditions which can cause more accidents. Ultimately, we believe the combination of the extra travel lane and the reduced speed limits will allow for a more reliable commute for travelers along that route,” said Director Wray.
New high-definition cameras will be installed along the SmartLane that will allow ODOT’s Statewide Traffic Management Center to monitor the SmartLane 24/7 and ensure there are never vehicles or debris in the lane before it opens to traffic.
In addition to the technology upgrades, the project also includes rebuilding the left shoulder on I-670 eastbound to better accommodate drivers in the SmartLane, resurfacing I-670 between I-71 and I-270, and reconfiguring the interchange at I-670, I-270 and US 62.
The $60 million project is expected to be complete by the end of 2019. During construction this year and next, drivers will experience ramp and lane closures, most of which will occur overnight and on weekends.
To see a video of the SmartLane, graphics and renderings on the interchange improvements at I-670/I-270 and US Route 62, visit the project website.
Information for this story was provided by the Ohio Department of Transportation.