Thursday, December 6, 2012

Outlet mall could clog interchange

the Columbus Dispatch

Some worry that area’s heavy traffic will only get worse

A planned new Tanger Outlets mall at the I-71 and Rts. 36/37 interchange might have central Ohio shoppers excited, but some drivers say they dread the extra traffic that is sure to come.

 “The traffic here is going to be awful,” said a woman who did not want to give her name as she pumped gas at a Shell station near the interchange last week.

John Day, 60, of Delaware, who also was filling up, said that without new access roads or other improvements, “you’ll have cars backing up, causing more delays, wasting more gas.”

Just weeks ago, the Ohio Department of Transportation finished $3.9 million in safety improvements at the interchange, including widening three of the interchange’s four ramps and building turn lanes.
Day and other drivers said the fixes have helped during rush-hour snarls. But those fixes were meant for only the short term, maybe five years.

State officials have long said the area’s population has outgrown the interchange, and plans to put in a new one are in the works. But construction won’t begin until late 2014 at the earliest, said ODOT spokeswoman Nancy Burton.

Developers behind the proposed 350,000-square-foot outlet mall say doors will be open in time for the 2014 holiday season.

As with any similar project, ODOT will require mall developers to submit a detailed plan showing the projected impact on traffic and what they would do to address it, Burton said. “We will make sure the infrastructure can handle the traffic.”

Although plans have not been released, Delaware County officials said on Friday that the mall will be on the interchange’s southwestern corner, off Four Winds Road behind the Cracker Barrel and White Castle restaurants.

The mall is expected to create 300 construction jobs and 900 retail jobs.

Traffic headed to and from Polaris Fashion Place, which is south of the interchange off I-71, has increased since that mall opened several years ago. Another draw will be Cabela’s, the popular hunting, fishing and outdoors retailer that plans to open its first Ohio location in the Polaris area in the spring.

Nick Gill, the assistant director of transportation for the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, said development has been expected in the area near Rts. 36/37 for years but has been held up by uncertainty over the interchange.

Gill said traffic forecasters can’t yet say how the proposed outlet mall might affect the area. He did say it likely could affect the interchange more than I-71 itself.

“Obviously, it will add traffic, but the expectation of there being a lot more traffic coming has been there for a while. The solution to address it is still to be determined,” Gill said.

Delaware County Commissioner Ken O’Brien said the proposed outlet mall could help traffic in an indirect way.

“I think it’s an opportunity,” O’Brien said. “As there’s more retail, there will be more of an impetus to get something done.”

No comments:

Post a Comment