Eastern Corridor segments still awaiting long-needed improvements

ODOT getting info, says work still a few years off
Looking for Eastern Corridor upgrades? Settle in
Posted at 12:00 PM, Mar 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-27 12:00:23-04

CINCINNATI -- Drivers don't need to worry about road construction or detours any time soon on Eastern Corridor segments II and III.

The Eastern Corridor is the network of roadways connecting the region’s eastern communities, such as Batavia, Mariemont and Anderson Township to Cincinnati. Segments II and III, which fall between Red Bank Road and the interchange of I-275 and Ohio 32, make up one of four core Eastern Corridor projects.

After more than a year studying the segments, Ohio Department of Transportation representatives shared the results -- and their plans moving forward -- in a public open house March 9. No official timeline has been established, but one of ODOT’s next steps is to establish stakeholder groups for each of six focus areas within the segments.

“We’re aiming toward assembling groups soon and meeting over the summer,” said Tom Arnold Jr., traffic studies engineer for ODOT District 8.

ODOT representatives hope to be developing implementation plans and securing funding for construction projects by winter of next year, he said.

Representatives intend to focus on primary needs to improve safety and alleviate traffic congestion, and feedback from stakeholder groups will play a big role in the plans.

“That really drives how we proceed with these projects,” Arnold said.

Public feedback already has played a significant role in road improvement plans for the area. ODOT representatives previously proposed a new roadway that would have cut through the Little Miami Valley. Those plans were halted after community members expressed concerns.

The feedback gathered since then includes input from more than 1,000 individuals through an interactive online survey and six focus area workshops.

Information was also gathered through emails submitted via the Eastern Corridor website and input from the Eastern Corridor Development Team. The team includes representatives from the Eastern Corridor communities, business organizations, environmental groups and other stakeholders.

Despite the concerns expressed for ODOT’s previously proposed plan, few community members are satisfied with the current state of the corridor. Of those surveyed, 88 percent of community members expressed that some improvements are needed.

Traffic congestion and travel time delays have long been an issue along the corridor.

“Since it’s built up out here, it’s changed,” said Mount Carmel resident Sandy Mugavin.

In addition to the public input, ODOT representatives shared updated traffic volume, travel time, congestion and crash data, which will help guide future projects.

The information shared during the open house elicited varying responses from community members.

Mount Carmel resident John Mugavin was relieved that future projects, which will focus on improving existing roads, won’t interfere with his property.

Terrace Park resident Jay Gohman expressed frustration at how few projects have been completed in the amount of time ODOT representatives have been studying the corridor.

“Nothing’s getting done,” Gohman said.

The need to re-evaluate plans after the rejection of ODOT’s previous proposal contributed to the long planning process, said Brian Cunningham, communications manager for ODOT District 8.

“We have to go back and develop and vet those other options,” he said.

While no improvement projects will be implemented for at least another year, 2017 will entail more active planning than last year’s information-gathering phase.

“It’ll be a decision-making process,” Cunningham said.

Once projects are established and funding secured, timelines will depend on the type of improvements being made.

Changes to signal timing can be done in a matter of months, while adding turn lanes can take between one and three years. Interchange projects can take as long as five to seven years.

“We’ll try to implement simple projects quickly,” Arnold said.