The city of Columbus has started a road extension project on Maple Street to help improve traffic flow near four northside schools.

The road is being extended to U.S. 31 to provide an alternate route in and out of the area, said Dave Hayward, executive director of public works/city engineer. The schools — Columbus North High, Northside Middle, Schmitt Elementary and St. Bartholomew Catholic — have a combined enrollment in excess of 4,000.

A 2012 Safe Routes to School study identified an extension of Maple Street as a necessary improvement to local infrastructure to increase safety for students.

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, which is less than 500 feet, will allow drivers to access Maple Street from the north by turning right from U.S. 31, or to leave the area using U.S. 31 by turning right off of Maple with no left turns permitted.

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The project, which began Tuesday, has resulted in the north end of Maple Street being blocked off to through traffic, which is expected to remain in effect for the remainder of the summer. Residents who live on Maple Street, Tipton Lane and Village Drive have been asked by the city to enter and exit the area at Village Drive.

No street parking is being allowed along Maple Street inside the barricades that have been put up, while residents at three Tipton Lane addresses will not have driveway access, according to a letter sent by the city to neighbors. Individuals without driveway access are being asked to park their cars at the Northside Middle School parking lot or on the road along Tipton Lane.

Hank Akard, project manager with United Consulting, said crews were planning to put in about 800 feet of drainage pipe on Wednesday, while the milling of the road was expected to take place late next week. Curbs are scheduled to be put into place at the end of July, while asphalt will also be put down, he said.

Eighty percent of the $437,816 project cost is being federally funded, with the city being required to pick up the remaining $87,563, Hayward said. The city’s portion will be paid through its thoroughfare fund, money that is collected through property taxes earmarked for street improvement projects.

Hayward said the project should make it easier for motorists to get in and out of the area when it is completed. Construction is expected to wrap up by late August or early September, about a month after the start of the new school year, he said.

Jeff Voyles, who lives across the street from Columbus North with his wife Lori, said he’s unsure whether the improvements will increase traffic volume on Maple Street.

However, Voyles said he would like for the road extension — as intended — to alleviate traffic congestion in the four-school area.

“I hope it’s a pressure relief for people to get out faster, especially after a big game,” he said.

Project timeline

Here is the timeline for the city’s $437,186 Maple Street Extension project, of which 80 percent will be funded by the federal government.

June: Work begins on Maple Street extension project that involves installation of about 800 feet of drainage pipe.

July: Construction continues with the milling of the road. Curbs and asphalt will be put into place in late July.

Late August/early September: Construction is expected to wrap up

Source: City of Columbus Engineering Department, United Consulting

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com