The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is advising drivers on Interstate 71 to be on high alert the week of June 7, when Ohio’s second IKEA store opens near the Polaris/Gemini exit.
For more than three months, ODOT, the City of Columbus, IKEA representatives and law enforcement from multiple jurisdictions have met regularly to plan for traffic control on the retailer’s opening day and the during the first two weekends.
“Preventing crashes and keeping traffic moving safely through the area are top priorities for ODOT,” said Jack R. Marchbanks, District 6 Deputy Director. “In addition to partnering with local law enforcement, ODOT will utilize several resources including digital message boards, traffic cameras and social media to alert drivers of the congestion.”
Law enforcement officers will be stationed at more than 40 locations, including key ramps to assist with traffic flow and signal timing. Thru traffic not exiting at Polaris/Gemini is encouraged to stay left.
Motorists sitting in a stopped lane of traffic while other motorists drive by at interstate speeds is extremely dangerous. ODOT is doing everything it can to avoid this circumstance. The traffic management plan includes nine message boards in northern Franklin and southern Delaware Counties warning drivers to watch for stopped traffic or consider an alternate route if traffic is backed up on I-71.
To keep traffic flowing as efficiently as possible, consider the following:
• I-71 northbound drivers headed to the store opening should take the exit for Polaris Parkway, rather than the Gemini/IKEA Way exit
• I-71 southbound traffic should turn right onto Gemini and take Lyra Drive to Polaris Parkway (instead of turning left on Gemini/IKEA Way)
• From Polaris, drivers should take Worthington Road to eastbound IKEA Way
ODOT will also assign State Farm Safety Patrol units to I-71 between SR 161 and US 36/SR 37 and I-270 between US 23 and Cleveland Avenue for the opening week.
“Assisting drivers who run out of gas or get a flat tire is just part of what the safety patrol does,” said Mitch Blackford, District 6 Highway Management Administrator. “They also provide vital support to incident management and will work to keep traffic moving.”
If traveling in the Polaris area the week of June 7, ODOT offers these tips to safely reach your destination.
• Check OHGO before you go to see real-time traffic speeds, live cameras and any unplanned lane or ramp closures
• Consider taking an alternate route
• Allow extra time to reach your destination
• Follow the signs and directional message boards
• Thru traffic not exiting at Polaris/Gemini should stay to the left
The store expects 10,000 to 15,000 people per day during its first week.
Information for this story was provided by ODOT.