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  • Location: Columbus, Ohio

Help is on the way for drivers in Columbus, Ohio, at the I-70/I-71 split – a highly congested area comprised of overlapping merges entering and leaving downtown. Identified by the project owners, Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the City of Columbus, as a High Crash Location, a multi-billion-dollar, multi-phase project – called the Downtown Ramp-up Project – is underway to completely rebuild and improve the split.

Built in the 1960s to accommodate an average of 125,000 vehicles per day, the interchange now regularly carries 175,000 vehicles per day. According to ODOT, the split is one of the most congested areas in the state, ranked fourth statewide for crashes and congestion, averaging two crashes a day.

B&N led the design of Phase 3B to improve the 70/71 corridor. The project team:

  • Redesigned Interstate 71 from Main Street to just north of Broad Street and added urban avenues – Elijah Pierce Avenue and Lester Drive - connecting Broad and Long Streets.
  • Designed the new Broad Street bridge over I-71 and the roadway approach work on both sides of the bridge.
  • Re-aligned a sanitary siphon to accommodate a future store-front cap along the Broad Street bridge
  • Designed new lanes and retaining walls on I-71 from Broad Street to Long Street, adding one additional travel lane on I-71 southbound.

Bringing Communities Together

By removing several of the local network access points to and from I-71, we were able to improve safety and the quality of life in the communities located near the highway. The extension of Elijah Pierce and Lester Drive from Long Street to Broad Street included pedestrian buffer walls, high quality landscaping, pedestrian-level lighting, bicycle lanes and enhanced intersections with brick sidewalks, curb bump outs with on-street parking and crosswalks that all provide an enhanced experience as an active transportation user. These improvements help improve the safety of pedestrians, motorists and cyclists.

B&N coordinated closely with Olde Towne East Neighborhood Association and the Jefferson Center to gain a comprehensive understanding of the needs of residents and businesses from this project. During those conversations and public engagement sessions, it was determined that community connection was a top priority. To further increase connectivity between the communities that straddle the highway, this project designed retaining walls for a future freeway cap along the southern portion of the Broad Street bridge to allow for future storefronts and businesses to be built across the bridge.

Additionally, B&N incorporated architectural elements that reflect the historic surroundings, wide sidewalks to accommodate pedestrians, and bicycle facilities that connect to downtown bike routes. The locals’ suggestions helped guide the decisions for many the elements included in the bridge designs and aesthetics.

Phase 3B of the East Trench project was completed in 2023. This phase of the project received the American Society of Highway Engineers Central Ohio Section Project of the Year Award in 2024 in the $10M+ category.

B&N’s design of this highly visible and complex project provided an opportunity to improve safety and reduce congestion for thousands of motorists, while also enhancing downtown neighborhoods.

Moving Forward

The next phase of this project, Phase 3, began in 2024 with construction tentatively scheduled for 2029. The community will benefit from additional improved multimodal facilities and corridor aesthetics which will attract businesses and visitors to the area. B&N started designing Phase 3 in 2024, which includes:

  • Replacement Oak and Town Street bridges with similar aesthetic treatments to that of the Broad Street Bridge.
  • Completing the connection of Long to Main by extending Elijah Pierce Avenue and Lester Drive from Broad Street to Main.
  • Widening I-71 from seven lanes completed in Phase 3B to the final build of 12 lanes with six lanes in each direction.