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Columbus making improvements to Olentangy Trail with new grant funds

A bicyclist rides on the Olentangy Trail in Columbus.
Jo McCulty
Ohio State University
A bicyclist rides on the Olentangy Trail in Columbus.

Columbus City Council will vote Monday night to accept grant funds to help fund a new route for the 22-mile Olentangy Trail.

Columbus is working to divert the Olentangy Trail off the roadways between Clinton Como Park and Northmoor Park and was recently awarded nearly $500,000 to use for the project. The new project would build two new bridges across the Olentangy River, routing the trail through a wooded area next to an OhioHealth campus rather than through neighborhood streets immediately north and south of North Broadway.

The grant the city received from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Clean Ohio program is worth $435,000, with the city paying an additional $145,000 to build the route.

The project moves forward as the city invests in more multi-modal infrastructure for bikes and pedestrians.

Council member Nancy Day-Achauer said the new trail path and added safety enhancements at a road crossing will help the city achieve its goals to improve pedestrian and bike safety.

"I find it rather frightening that anybody who is riding bicycles on city streets is alone there. So the opportunity to have this trail that diverts them from these incredibly busy intersections and what not is a really great opportunity," Day-Achauer said.

A large stretch of the trail is already under construction near Ohio State University's campus. The trail detours around Ohio Stadium and the detour is expected to last until this summer.

The city expects to begin construction on the new trail route later this year.

Day-Achauer said the improvements include a fully functional bike and pedestrian crosswalk with a signal on the west side of the river. That differs from the current intersection where bikes cross North Broadway which includes dedicated green street markings for bicyclists to wait on.

Day-Achauer said the trail will help the city achieve several initiatives to reduce traffic fatalities and add bike infrastructure in major city corridors.

"We want multi-modal transportation throughout the city so that we're not a vehicle-dependent community as we are now. And also it works in with our Vision Zero (plan) about making intersections safer, when we have truly functional bike and pedestrian crosswalks with signals across our city," she said.

Day-Achauer said Columbus won't become truly bike friendly for decades, but projects like the Link Us Project will help in the process.

The council will also vote Monday to apply for a grant for the Linden Green Line project, that includes seven miles of new park space and a trail. The council will also vote to modify its contract with Lyft, so the company continues to operate its bicycle rental kiosks throughout the city.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.