City Council approves first phase of State Street project

The project to improve State Street on Columbus’ east side will move forward. The city council met Tuesday night and approved a resolution to fund the first phase of the project.

Dascal Bunch, City Councilman for the first district, has consistently championed this project and encouraged fellow council members to approve it. He noted that while he has personally been a part of the effort for the last four years, he says that residents and business owners of the city’s east side have been waiting on improvements for some 60-years. Bunch says that Tuesday night’s vote should serve as affirmation for those who live and work on the east side that changes are coming. Councilman Tom Dell agreed. He says that the east side has been “a neglected area for years.” He called the project, “the right thing for Columbus to do.”

Phase I of the project includes what is being called a “gateway entrance” for the bridge at State Street and Central Avenue. Stakeholders in the project, including members of the State Street Area Association, agree that the bridge, which spans Hawcreek, is key to the project. Both Julie Bilz and Julie Aton, who serve on the State Street Area Association Board, note that the bridge is “critical,” as it connects downtown to the east side. They say that once the project is complete, residents and visitors will hopefully see the area as an extension of the downtown.

Heather Pope, Columbus’ Redevelopment Director, says the bridge improvements are focused on pedestrian functionality and aesthetics. While a new bridge was considered, it was ultimately decided to refurbish, and widen, the existing bridge. That decision, saved up to $1.2 million dollars, according to documents provided to the city. The bridge work will include four, 12-foot traffic lanes (two in each direction), walking paths on each side of the bridge with aesthetically-pleasing barriers to protect against traffic, path lighting and more.

The city council approved the resolution unanimously. It calls for the spending of no more than $2.185 million on the first phase. That money will come out of the city’s Tax-Increment Financing (TIF) funds. After the vote, a visibly pleased Mayor Jim Lienhoop said of the project, “It’s an exciting time.”

City officials say the plan is to advertise for bids on the project in October and award the contract in November. If all goes to plan, work would begin this winter and be finished by next spring.