Last Thursday afternoon, the Ohio Department of Transportation hosted a public meeting at Northgate Church to share the three proposed Interstate 71-U.S. 36/State Route 37 interchange modification options and accept public comments.
As the result of a 2012 feasibility study, ODOT has determined that an upgrade to the existing 40-year-old I-71 interchange would be south of the existing interchange near the closed weigh station on northbound I-71.
Last Thursday’s three-hour session was not a traditional meeting format; it was a series of stations showing the three proposed options for extending a southern interchange to the west of I-71. East of I-71, the interchange would connect with the yet-to-be-built Sunbury Parkway.
Sunbury Parkway would be entirely within the village of Sunbury on recently annexed property; and funded as outlined in a previously negotiated and approved New Community Authority agreement between Northgate Commerce District and Sunbury.
Northgate Commerce District, a proposed commercial development at the southern interchange, recently received a Sunbury zoning change to planned commercial development for 250 acres east of I-71. That zoning change allows Northgate principal Pat Shively and his partners to move forward with their plans to develop Sunbury Parkway. Northgate Commerce District, Phase One, would be east of the interstate and west of North Galena Road.
Several hundred Berkshire Township and Sunbury residents attended last Thursday’s public meeting, leaving written questions and comments that ODOT will use as the three interchange options are reviewed.
The interchange modification’s project manager, Steve Fellenger, was available for questions. Fellenger said the meeting provided members of the public with an opportunity to review alternatives to improve safety and reduce congestion at the I-71/U.S. 36/SR 37 interchange and provide improved east-west connectivity in the region.
Fellenger said public comments from last Thursday’s public meeting would be accepted through May 13, and a second public meeting would be held in the fall. He also said the interchange would be designed and ready for construction, pending funding feasibility, in 2018.
Sunbury Mayor Tommy Hatfield was at the session and said he was pleased with the turnout.
“I’m excited that we have ODOT engaging with the public, providing the public with information about the impact of traffic on 36-37,” Hatfield said. “The village of Sunbury has always been about fixing the problem of access to the freeway. The southern interchange will be a better solution for our community as a whole.”
Comments on the three southern interchange options must be received by May 13. Comments may be sent to Steve Fellenger, project manager, Ohio Department of Transportation, 400 E. William St., Delaware, OH 43015. Fellenger will also accept comments via email at Steven.Fellenger@dot.ohio.gov.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093