Ahead of Intel, Johnstown seeks to alleviate traffic headache at heart of downtown

·4 min read
A truck turns at the intersection of U.S. 62 and Ohio 37, or Coshocton and Main streets in downtown  Johnstown. Planners have floated the idea of studying alternate routes for semi truck traffic in the city.
A truck turns at the intersection of U.S. 62 and Ohio 37, or Coshocton and Main streets in downtown Johnstown. Planners have floated the idea of studying alternate routes for semi truck traffic in the city.

JOHNSTOWN — The traffic picture is not a pretty one and the solutions are costly and time-consuming.

Start with a U.S. route that connects a small city with the suburbs outside the state capital less than six miles away. Add a state route that leads from the city to the county seat, just 14 miles away.

Intersect the two busy roads in the heart of the downtown on streets designed in 1813. Then, add thousands of semi trucks using the two main routes.

And, in a few years, add the largest commercial development in state history, when Intel Corporation begins manufacturing computer chips at a $20 billion facility just two miles south of town.

Welcome to Johnstown, Ohio, and the intersection of U.S. 62 and Ohio 37, or Coshocton and Main streets in Johnstown.

Instead of building new roads to bypass downtown Johnstown, transportation officials are looking at the possibility of directing semi trucks onto improved existing roads to avoid creating gridlock in the city center.

Matt Hill, director of the Licking County Area Transportation Study presented an idea to the Licking County Transportation Improvement District at its Wednesday meeting. He seeks money to study it.

“Total traffic volume is not really the problem at this intersection," Hill said. "It’s the percent of trucks. The percent of trucks at this intersection is unbelievable. We need to get trucks out of downtown and get an alternative truck route.

“Would you consider a feasibility study to figure out if this is realistic? Is this possible? Are you willing to look at this? This has been a problem for years, way before Intel.”

The TID board did not give an immediate answer, but said it would consider the request.

One TID board member, Harrison Township Trustee Mark Van Buren, seemed receptive to the idea, especially if it helped get trucks to Commerce Park, an industrial park northeast of downtown on U.S. 62.

“All you've got to do is drive through there at certain times of the day; you’re not going to get through there," Van Buren said.

"If we’re part of economic development and if we can at least do a study and see if we can get a road up to that Commerce Park to help them build their economic development, like we do in Etna, and working with Heath, depending what the study is, I don’t have a problem with it.”

Hill did not say what existing roads could be used, explaining the study would help determine that, but State Rep. Mark Fraizer, R-Newark, suggested Clover Valley Road and Northridge Road are two potential bypass routes.

Clover Valley Road connects U.S. 62 and Ohio 37 west of Johnstown. Northridge Road connects the same routes east of the city.

“There a lot of infrastructure there that could serve as a bypass and not build new roads," Fraizer said.

Hill said semi trucks making turns, especially right turns, at the intersection have become a major problem. He said one traffic jam was created when a truck attempted a right right and a driver waiting to turn left refused to back up, leaving the truck blocking three of four approach lanes for more than two signal cycles.

“It took almost three hours until the queues and the signal caught up with each other," Hill said. "To have one issue create that much delay, that’s nuts.”

Removing the semi trucks from the intersection would cut the delays in half, Hill said. The worst turning radius is the right turn from Main Street, or Ohio 37, onto Coshocton Street, or U.S. 62. Trucks sometimes mount the curbs because of a narrow turning radius.

Improvements have been made to U.S. 62, and continue this year, reducing the number of crashes at the busy intersection Hill said. But, it's still a high-crash location.

Intel announced on Jan. 21, it would locate in Jersey Township on land just south of Johnstown to be annexed into New Albany. Construction is expected to begin later this year, with production scheduled to begin in 2025.

The company expects to hire 3,000 employees, and the project is expected to create 7,000 construction jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs. It is possible this stage is just the first part of a $100 billion investment by the company.

Community briefing on Intel

Who: A panel has been assembled to provide information and answer questions

How: Questions should be submitted by Monday to the council clerk at: tmonroe@johnstownohio.org. Please include name and address

When: 6:30-9 p.m. Thursday (Doors open at 6 p.m.)

Where: Johnstown Performing Arts Center, 401 S. Oregon St., Johnstown

This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Ahead of Intel, Johnstown seeks to alleviate traffic headache downtown