Columbus receives $12M from feds for East Livingston Avenue safety improvements
The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded the city of Columbus $12 million to help pay for planned safety improvements to a dangerous 1.6-mile stretch of East Livingston Avenue east of Nationwide Children's Hospital through the Driving Park neighborhood.
The East Livingston project was among 510 projects nationwide awarded a total of $800 million in grants Wednesday through the Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) grant program, which was established by President Joe Biden’s infrastructure law and provides $5 billion over five years to improve roads, sidewalks and crosswalks to prevent traffic fatalities.
Jennifer Gallagher, Columbus' public service director, said the total cost for the East Livingston project between South 18th Street and Nelson Road is expected to be $24 million. The city plans to find other funding sources for its 50% match.
The project won't be finished soon. The work is not schedule to begin until 2026 and finished until 2028.
Gallagher said plans call for reducing travel lanes in each direction from two to one with a center turn lane. Other plans call for shared-use lanes bicyclists would use, protected by curbs, with parking maintained along sections, she said.
Those measures should help slow down speeders that Gallagher said community leaders and residents have complained about for years. She said that 73% of all fatal and serious-injury crashes in the corridor between 2014 and 2018 involved vehicles hitting people walking or bicycling.
"Residents were afraid to wait on sidewalks, wait at bus stops," Gallagher said. The speed limit is 35 mph, but drivers often speed along the four-lane road, she said.
In 2022, Columbus City Council approved $150,000 for a traffic study along East Livingston in that stretch to develop a plan to slow down traffic and reduce crashes.
Neighborhood leaders and residents have been asking the city to do something for years. In 2021, there were 65 crashes through Dec. 13 that year at just five intersections along East Livingston Avenue: South Ohio Avenue, South Champion Avenue, Miller Avenue, Kelton Avenue and Fairwood Avenue.
"They don’t feel safe walking along Livingston," said Michael Aaron, executive director of the Rickenbacker Woods Foundation and a longtime resident of the Driving Park neighborhood.
"If we want to promote business, we have to make sure pedestrians feel safe. And so this is an absolute must for one of the busiest corridors in the city of Columbus," Aaron said.
According to a 2022 traffic study, 13,110 vehicles traveled East Livingston Avenue just west of Kelton Avenue near the Driving Park branch of the Columbus Public Library.
David Gray, a resident of the historic Old Oaks neighborhood and what he called a community stakeholder, said he has lived near East Livingston Avenue for years. He said the goal is to make the area a walkable neighborhood. Right now, he said, East Livingston is like a mini-highway.
"We don’t want anybody to die. That's our main goal," Gray said. "I want anyone to walk down Livingston Avenue and not worry about someone driving 50 miles-an-hour."
The city already has reduced the number of lanes and made other safety improvements to slow traffic on another section of East Livingston Avenue between College Avenue and James Road on the East Side where some vehicles have crashed into houses.
This story is part of the Dispatch's Mobile Newsroom initiative. Read our reporters' work at dispatch.com/mobilenewsroom, where you also can sign up for The Mobile Newsroom newsletter.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus to make improvements on E. Livingston Avenue in Driving Park