A road extension project on Maple Street set to begin in the next month is expected to help improve traffic flow around four north-side schools.
The road will be extended to U.S. 31, providing an alternate route in and out of Columbus North High School, said Dave Hayward, executive director of public works/city engineer.
Columbus North is one of four schools with a combined enrollment in excess of 4,000 located in the area, along with Northside Middle School, Schmitt Elementary and St. Bartholomew Catholic School.
A 2012 Safe Routes to School study identified an extension of Maple Street as a necessary improvement to local infrastructure that could make it safer for students.
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Maple Street currently ends at Tipton Lane, between Columbus North softball fields to the west and the Sirloin Stockade restaurant to the east.
The road extension will allow drivers to access Maple Street by turning right (south) from U.S. 31, or to access U.S. 31 by turning right off of Maple, with no left turns permitted, Hayward said.
Jason Staley, who lives along Maple Street, said the project should help with traffic issues that are especially problematic during the morning and afternoon hours.
“If you try to get out of my driveway at 7:30 a.m., it’s chaos,” Staley said.
Staley said the changes will provide him with another option to get to work. He often travels through residential neighborhoods to leave the area due to the amount of traffic on Maple Street.
“Hopefully it’ll make it safer, too,” he said. “It’s hard to cross the street when you’re looking both ways.”
Allen Parker, whose mother Mary lives across the street from Columbus North, said he has also seen the before-school and after-school traffic congestion.
When North student drivers are attempting to leave the school parking lot, “it gets pretty bad,” Parker said.
Pointing toward 25th Street, Parker said it’s often impossible to leave the area due to the amount of afternoon traffic near the schools.
Parker said he thinks the extension project along Maple Street will be a good move for the neighborhood as a whole.
“If you have more room to get out that way, it’d help out a lot,” he said.
In addition to the extension, the project also includes adding a sidewalk to connect the intersection of National Road, Westenedge Drive and Home Avenue with the existing sidewalk that leads to Home.
Eighty percent of the project, which will cost $437,816, is being federally funded with the city required to pick up the remaining $87,563, Hayward said.
The city’s portion of the project will be paid through its thoroughfare fund, money that is collected through property taxes earmarked for street improvement projects.
Children attending Parkside and Richards elementary schools, located further north, will also have a safer walking path as part of another Safe Routes to School project, which is being entirely funded with federal dollars.
Jim Roberts, superintendent of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., said the improvements will be beneficial to students and the community.
“We are making the ability to walk to school, and in general within our community, a safer thing,” Roberts said.
What: Road extension that will provide alternate route in and out of Columbus North High School
When: Expected to begin in April
Cost: $437,816 (80 percent of project federally funded)