2008-11-29 / News

ODOT defines I-70 detour plan

By Scott Rawdon

HEBRON - ODOT District 5 representatives said Nov. 17 that the agency will adopt its draft plan to handle I-70 closures near the Ohio 79 interchange as the final plan. There may be a mock highway closure early 2009 to test the plan.

The Nov. 17 meeting in the Hebron Municipal Complex was the last of three meetings to discuss options for handling I-70 traffic, should the interstate close temporarily. Representatives from Hebron, Buckeye Lake, the Licking County Sheriff's Officeand Licking County joined ODOT in the discussions.

Closures of I-70 near the Ohio 79 intersection are particularly troublesome for the Village of Hebron because US 40 runs straight through the village. Interstate traffic has been frequently been diverted onto U.S. 40 through Hebron. The snarl of cars and trucks basically cuts the village in half as miles of traffic crawls through Hebron. Some residents are blocked in their driveways, school busescan't make their stops, and emergency vehicles have nowhere to go.

ODOT designed several "plays" to redirect traffic around flooded areas of I-70 while minimizing traffic problems for the villages of Hebron and Buckeye Lake.

• Play 1: When only I-70 eastbound is closed. During most floods, the I-70 eastbound lane is the first to flood. I-70 east between state routes 37 and 79 closes first. Whenever the westbound lane is open, I-70 eastbound traffic will exit at Ohio 37. Trucks will travel south on Ohio 37 and turn left onto Ohio 79 and travel east through the Village of Buckeye Lake. They will re-enter I-70 at the Ohio 79 entrance ramp and continue eastbound.

Cars will exit at Ohio 37 and travel north and turn right onto US 40, traveling east through the Village of Hebron. Cars will turn south onto Ohio 79 and re-enter I-70 at Ohio 79 entrance ramp and continue eastbound.

• Play 1A: Play 1A is identical to Play 1, except detoured cars are directed east on US 40 all the way to the Ohio 13 interchange.

• Play 2: I-70 westbound may eventually close as floodwaters rise. When I-70 is completely blocked, all westbound traffic will exit at Ohio 79 and travel north to US 40, then west through Hebron to rejoin I-70 at its Ohio 37 interchange. Eastbound traffic will exit at Ohio 37 and travel south to Ohio 79, turn left and travel east through Buckeye Lake, rejoining I-70 east at its Ohio 79 interchange.

• Play 3: In the event I-70 westbound closes, but eastbound lanes remain open, cars and trucks will take separate routes similar to Play 1, but trucks will travel north through Hebron, and cars will travel south through Buckeye Lake.

ODOT District 5 spokeswoman Kate Stickle said the only change made to the final plays from what ODOT presented in October was the Licking County Area Transportation Study's suggestion to for more road signs to direct traffic around the flooded areas.

Stickle said that after all the signs are in place, ODOT will schedule a mock closure to test its plays. She added it would be at least a couple of months before the signs arrive and are installed. During the mock closure, she said, ODOT crews and other involved parties - such as the Hebron and Buckeye Lake police, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and the Licking County Sheriff's Office- will have a "walk through" of everyone's duties during an actual closure. Crews will be on the roadway, at intersections, and listening to radios as if preparing for an actual closure.

No traffic will be rerouted, nor will rerouting signs be displayed to traffic, said Stickle. She said the mock closure will simply be a simulation for ODOT's and local law enforcement's sake and will not affect traffic.

"We will do this without impeding motorists, but at the same time prepare ourselves for closure," said Stickle.

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