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Proposal Would Close the Gap in the Olentangy Trail

Brent Warren Brent Warren Proposal Would Close the Gap in the Olentangy TrailMap courtesy of the City of Columbus.
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Regular users of the Olentangy Trail know that there is only one section of the shared-use path that detours away from the Olentangy River and onto city streets. That happens on either side of the North Broadway bridge in Clintonville, roughly halfway between the trail’s two endpoints, Worthington and Downtown.

A new proposal would close that gap by taking the trail over two new bridges and onto the west side of the river for about half a mile. Northbound users would cross the first new bridge at Como Park, which would deposit them onto a new section of trail running past Kohl’s and along the eastern edge of the new OhioHealth office complex. They would then cross North Broadway at grade and continue along the river to the second new bridge, which would connect them back up with the existing Olentangy Trail at Northmoor Park.

When the new OhioHealth office project was announced last year, some area residents and cycling advocates questioned why a plan for bringing the trail across the river was not one of the many infrastructure improvements approved as part of a large incentive deal negotiated by the City of Columbus.

Brad Westall, the city’s Greenways Planner, said at the time that the new OhioHealth offices were helping to “get the discussion going,” and expressed hope that “we’ll have a project in the not too distant future to connect both sides.”

It now looks like his optimism was warranted. Although the plan for the two new bridges is not yet funded — and more detailed planning and engineering work would be required before any part of if is built — the first steps in the process are underway.

The Clintonville Area Commission (CAC) wrote a letter in support of the project, which the city will be submitting to the MidOhio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) for a grant that could cover as much 80 percent of the cost.

The letter makes a case for the improvements, citing the popularity of the trail (over 400,000 users a year) as well as issues with the current configuration, which brings users off the trail and onto Riverside Drive, Dehli Avenue, Milton Avenue, Kenworth Road; “this area generates a shower of complaints from trail users, motorists, and those who live along this street route….conflicts occur often, incidents happen, and this project will serve as a huge solution to this problem.”

The MORPC grant money comes from a portion of federal transportation funding that the organization is in charge of allocating. A decision on the awarding of the grant is scheduled for December.

Commissioners expressed hope that, with the OhioHealth offices opening soon and more development potentially on the way on the west side of the river, the timing is finally right for the project:

The CAC has been urging the city for years to look at the option of crossing the Olentangy River with a dedicated trail between Clinton Como Park and Northmoor Park. The re-development of the west side of the Olentangy River corridor, adding thousands of new employees and residents, makes this connection imperative for the community, the employers, and the future residents of Clintonville. It is a once in a generation opportunity that we cannot afford to ignore.

More information on the proposal is available on the Clintonville Area Commission website

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