New Plan Will Make Transit Recommendations for Northwest Corridor
The City of Columbus announced today the next step in a process that started in back in 2014, when the Insight 2050 initiative highlighted the need for more focused and concentrated growth in the region.
Last spring’s Corridor Concepts study recommended dense development and better transit along five regional corridors, and today, one of those corridors was picked to be the first. A consultant has been hired to study the Northwest Corridor, which roughly follows Olentangy River Road from Downtown to Bethel Road.
The new plan promises to do what the previous plans haven’t – make a specific recommendation for what exactly a “high-capacity transit” option should look like along the corridor, and lay out a step-by-step strategy for actually building it within the next five years.
Included within the scope of the project is a plan for funding the improvements, as well as recommendations for any changes to the zoning code or the development process that may be needed to make it successful (the plan will only look at the portion of the corridor within the City of Columbus).
Kimley-Horn – a planning and engineering firm with experience designing both light rail and bus rapid transit (BRT) systems – has been hired to lead the effort.
“We’re really excited and ready to get started,” said Jennifer Gallagher, the city’s Director of Public Service, explaining that the work on this corridor – which is among the most complex of the five from an engineering standpoint – will serve as a model for future efforts. And she stressed that work on plans for other corridors in the region could begin before the 18-month planning process for the Northwest Corridor is complete.
“There are lots of communities who are talking to us, and lots of ideas out there, nobody is sitting around waiting,” Gallagher said. “Before this study is done, I could see us starting on several others.”
Columbus City Council is scheduled to vote on legislation to fund a portion of the $1 million initiative on November 18. Other organizations contributing to the effort include the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, the Central Ohio Transit Authority, Ohio State University, and several “private partners,” according to the city.
Although a new map shows the corridor following Olentangy Road for most of its length, city officials said that that’s only a rough estimate of where the new transit service would run – it could end up on other nearby streets depending on how the planning and design process proceeds.
“We’re not going to study this corridor to death, we’re moving forward and we’re moving forward quickly,” Gallagher said, although she acknowledged that there are two significant “traffic knots” along the corridor that will need to be straightened out and simplified so that transit can move through them efficiently.
One such knot is just north of Lennox Town Center, where Olentangy River Road goes under 315. The other is the area just south of Goodale Street, where Olentangy River Road turns into Twin Rivers Drive and veers off to the west – a new alignment could proceed in a more direct manner to Souder Road, connecting to West Broad Street in Franklinton.
With major employers like OSU, Battelle and OhioHealth located along the corridor – as well as the likelihood that OSU’s west campus will soon add a huge influx of new office and residential space – city officials believe the potential for strong ridership along the corridor is there.
Gallagher, however, emphasized that faster and more reliable transit is only one part of the equation for this or any of the corridors.
“We need development that will support the transit system that we come up with – transit-friendly, walkable, bike-able development that sits closer to the transit system so people can get to it without needing a vehicle,” she said. “That will take some different land use planning, and possibly changing the zoning code…and we’ll be going out to the communities to engage and get their input, that’s a big part of the process.”