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Work on Northwest Corridor Plan Advances, East and West Corridors to be Next

Brent Warren Brent Warren Work on Northwest Corridor Plan Advances, East and West Corridors to be NextThe initiative has a new name and logo. Courtesy of the City of Columbus.
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Work is progressing on a plan to bring new transit options and more concentrated development to the Northwest Side, and work will begin soon on a similar effort focused on two additional corridors – one extending west from Downtown, the other traveling east.

The City of Columbus and its partners held a press conference today to provide updates on a process that started back in 2014 – when the Insight 2050 initiative highlighted the need for more focused growth in the region – and continued through last year, when the Corridor Concepts study recommended dense development and better transit along five regional corridors.

A consultant was hired last fall to to study the Northwest Corridor, which roughly follows Olentangy River Road from Downtown to Bethel Road. A request for qualifications went out earlier this month to produce plans for the West Corridor (West Broad Street) and East Corridor (either East Main Street, East Broad Street, or some combination of the two), meaning that the planning process for those two corridors will get started before work has wrapped up on the Northwest Corridor.

“What we’ve learned so far [about the Northwest Corridor] is stunning,” said William Murdock, Director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC). “We could potentially see a significant shift [in the use of transit], if we focus on compact and infill development, and on building out our pedestrian and bike infrastructure to serve as first and last mile connectors…if our community provides more options, people will use them.”

Other speakers also stressed the comprehensive nature of the effort – new land use policies, development incentives and zoning rules will need to be implemented along with whatever specific type of transit ends up being built along the corridor.

Also highlighted during the press call was a new name for the overall initiative – LinkUs – and a new website, complete with an initial report on the Northwest Corridor, a second document laying out a general strategy for all of the corridors, and information on the first of what will be several opportunities for the public to weigh in on the plans.

“LinkUs is how we’re going to bring new, high-quality transit to Columbus,” said City Council President Shannon Hardin. “This will allow us and our partners to create an even better city…both with transit, and with more opportunity to build affordable housing.”

“A lot of our residents are rightly focused on public safety right now, [but] this is also a matter of racial and economic justice, and we are committed to winning that fight as well,” added Hardin, who said his grandmother’s house on Livingston Avenue was one of the many Black-owned homes and businesses torn down to make way for I-71. “LinkUs is not a silver bullet – there are generations of racist policies to unwind – but this is one piece of a larger puzzle.”

When asked what made this initiative different from the many other past plans to bring improved transit to the region, several participants pointed to the fact that all of the major players – the city, MORPC and COTA – were at the table and working together, something that did not always happen in the past.

As for the question of funding, COTA CEO and President Joanna Pinkerton said she was optimistic that federal funding could “defray a large portion of the cost…it’s time for the Columbus region to pull down their fair share of federal dollars.”

Murdock, whose organization is responsible for setting the region’s transportation priorities and applying for federal dollars, was also bullish on the prospect of finding funding for the project.

“It’s about combining transit, style of development, and infrastructure, which helps each component to leverage each other,” he said. “It’s about moving people and creating great places.”

For more information, see linkuscolumbus.com.

A map from the new Northwest Corridor Foundations Report, courtesy of the City of Columbus.
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