For a hypothetical Alice exiting Interstate 70 eastbound for Interstate 270 northbound on the west side of Columbus, a challenging driving experience awaits. After first weaving through traffic exiting 270 northbound for 70 westbound, Alice has to merge, from the left, into a two-lane, often-busy ramp coming from Downtown. As if that weren't enough, she then finds herself having to negotiate an "inside merge" with the right lane of Interstate 270's mainline. Five lanes of traffic have been funneled into three in a very short distance. Did I mention there could very likely be trucks on any of the ramps mentioned, at any time? This situation can be challenging, be it during rush-hour or weekends, especially for inexperienced drivers.
I have an idea to improve the situation, and it should be relatively inexpensive as far as road projects go. It consists of about two lane-miles of new pavement, resurfacing and restriping some existing pavement, widening a culvert by 24 feet, relocating some signs, and probably extending a concrete barrier by about 2⁄3 mile. Where Alice's ramp from I-70 eastbound meets the ramp from I-70 westbound, I propose that the ramps should not merge. This can be accomplished by shifting the two lanes from I-70 westbound to the right over the length of the current merge, and then continuing the right lane along the current right breakdown lane; of course, a new breakdown lane will have to be built to its right. Expanding a culvert by 24 feet will accommodate this additional pavement and planned future widening. This new right lane becomes an "EXIT ONLY" lane for the Roberts Road exit, at which point no further new pavement is needed. Meanwhile, where these lanes from I-70 meet the Interstate 270 mainline, again I propose no immediate merging. Instead, the two mainline lanes would be shifted left over the length of the current merge, and then continuing the left lane along the current left breakdown lane for a short distance. Then the left lane would end just before the culvert in a simple merge with the next lane over. Given that two existing upstream merges no longer exist, and through traffic on I-270 is much less than that entering from I-70, traffic should be very smooth and lighter in the leftmost lanes; therefore, this merge of the two leftmost lanes should not be troublesome. As on the right side, a new left-side breakdown-lane will need to be built; the concrete barrier existing in the I-70 interchange may be extended to mitigate the safety issues posed by resulting reduction in distance between the northbound and southbound lanes.
As far as I know, ODOT has no plans for such a project. There has been a study of much greater scope along I-270 from this point northward, which recommends a variety of improvements and the eventual widening of the mainline. Of course, funding is a significant issue. If the interchange with I-70 is improved first, then the north end of this proposal may come to be. Conversely, if I-270 itself is widened before improvements are made to the I-70 interchange, then the south end of this proposal may prove prophetic. Either scenario is at probably least a decade off, as of this writing. Unfortunately, even a band-aid fix like this probably can't get through the bureaucratic process faster than that, if suggested today. That is, unless some consultant is already working on it. If that's the case, here's the alternative they're looking for.