Letter in support of the Columbus Crossroads Core Connections project

December 4, 2023

Filed Under:

The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio signed on to a letter coordinated by the Department of Public Services and the City of Columbus in support for the joint Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and City of Columbus Multimodal Project Discretionary Grant (MPDG) application for the Columbus Crossroads Core Connections project.

Dear Secretary Buttigieg:

On behalf of the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, I am writing to express our support for the joint Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and City of Columbus Multimodal Project Discretionary Grant (MPDG) application for the Columbus Crossroads Core Connections project.

Columbus Crossroads is a community-led $1.4 billion, multi-phase project to transform the crossroads of Interstates 70 and 71. The project improves one of the key corridors of the National Primary Highway Freight System. At the same time, this infrastructure investment helps restore and reconnect communities that were adversely impacted, first by redlining and second by constructing 1-70 and 1-71. Current and future phases of work of this multi phase project, including Core Connections, are now integrated within ODOT’s Columbus Crossroads construction project.

Taken together, these sub-phases will advance the USDOT’s strategic goals of increasing safety and mobility, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing community connectivity and economic competitiveness.

Columbus Crossroads Core Connections encompasses Phase 2D and 3 of the Columbus Crossroads project and represents $225 million of investment that will:

  • Reconstruct the 1-70 and 1-71 freeway mainlines to bring aging infrastructure into a state of good repair.
  • Reconstruct system interchange ramps to reduce weaving and reduce congestion and bottlenecks.
  • Reconstruct portions of the local streets to enhance local traffic distribution and Interstate access including work on Parsons Avenue, Mooberry Street, Mound Street, Fulton Street, Lester Drive and Parsons Avenue.
  • Construct a new roadway, “Elijah Pierce Avenue,” along the east side of 1-71 to facilitate cross local connectivity and Interstate access.
  • Reconstruct enhanced bridges over 1-71 on Main, Town, and Oak Street to reconnect communities divided by the lnterstate’s construction.
  • Facilitate the East Main Bus Rapid Transit corridor in the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant program.

The 1-70 and 1-71 freeway mainline overlap serves commuter traffic from across the state and freight traffic from across the nation. The overlap carries 145,000 vehicles per day- including 18,000 commercial vehicles – and exceeds its design capacity by 50,000 vehicles a day. As a result, this area contains three of Ohio’s top ten freeway crash locations. The overlap’s trench also creates a physical barrier between Downtown Columbus and the neighborhoods south of the overlap.

While this major investment will replace obsolete highway infrastructure, Columbus Crossroads Core Connections will also restore connections, build ladders of opportunity, transform communities, and revitalize Downtown Columbus and surrounding neighborhoods. New design features including extensive streetscaping, public art installations, and bicycle and pedestrian facilities will provide safe, enjoyable and convenient connections for motorists and non-motoring travelers.

ODOT, the City of Columbus, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), and a diverse group of community stakeholders and business entities have collaborated over the last decade to develop and implement this comprehensive vision. Before 1-71 was built in the 1960s, the King-Lincoln District bustled with 63,000 people and was the center of culture, commerce, civic life, and church in the African American community. By 2000, the neighborhood had dwindled to just 16,000 residents. Only 21 percent of the people in this area owned their homes, one in 5 were out of work, and nearly half lived in poverty. In 2014, Phase 1 of the Columbus Crossroads project restored the connection to the King­ Lincoln District with the Long Street Bridge and Cultural Wall – one of the most revered pieces of infrastructure in Columbus.

In 2016, USDOT believed that the Columbus Crossroads Project was of such national significance that the Long Street Bridge and Cultural Wall was featured on the cover of the FY2017 USDOT Budget. Then­ Secretary Anthony Foxx wrote, “This effort to reconnect and revitalize a community divided by past transportation policies is a compelling example of how transportation can create or eliminate opportunity gaps in our Nation.”

Once completed, the Core Connections bridge and surface street components will continue this tradition, as the sub-phases are focused on restoring connections across the Interstate as well as improving the built environment surrounding the project area.

I respectfully request that the U.S. Department of Transportation consider the importance of these improvements to the restoration of our communities, the prosperity of our region and state, and the resiliency of the national Interstate Highway System; and we urge your favorable consideration of the application.