COLUMBUS – Goodbye, snowplows and hello, orange barrels. The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is officially kicking off the 2021 construction season throughout the state, with more than 145 projects worth $540 million planned in the Central Ohio area this year. This includes 44 pavement improvement projects, 18 bridge projects, and 13 safety upgrades.
Safety remains a top priority in this year’s construction program and despite a 15.5 percent drop in traffic volumes last year, the increased revenue package passed in 2018 has allowed ODOT to continue funding its safety program at a pre-pandemic level and keep important maintenance projects on schedule.
"Thanks to the foresight of Gov. DeWine and the Ohio General Assembly and internal operational savings identified by our workforce, we have been able to weather this global pandemic. Without those extra funds, we would be nearly a billion dollars in the red,” said ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks. “While other states have been delaying or cancelling projects, Ohio continues moving forward.”
This year Central Ohio will continue to see major progress at the Interstate 70/71 split in downtown Columbus, with the new ramp from Fulton St. to I-70 east scheduled to open this summer. Also in Franklin County, work on the South Side Mega Fix will wrap up in June, and I-71 widening work is underway south of State Route 665 to the Pickaway County Line.
East of Columbus, drivers can expect impacts on U.S. Route 40 in Licking County and another year of work to replace the State Route 661 bridge just south of Granville. A multi-year mega reconstruction project on I-70 through Zanesville is also slated to begin this summer.
An increase in orange barrels comes with an urgent plea for drivers to ditch the distractions and follow Ohio's Move Over law to keep roadside workers safe. Despite fewer vehicles on the road last year, work zone crashes remained high.
“The men and women working to improve our roadways put their lives in your hands every day,” said Marchbanks. “Drivers should always pay attention behind the wheel, but work zones require extra attention and workers’ lives depend on it.”
Last year, ODOT crews were struck 125 times while on the job. So far this year, ODOT crews have already been hit 52 times. Ohio’s Move Over law requires drivers to move over a lane for any roadside vehicle with flashing lights. If they cannot move over, they must slow down.