The I-670 ramp to Third Street, which provides access from the east side to downtown Columbus, is closed for extensive repairs. It will be closed for months.
It’s only one of thousands — make that hundreds of thousands — of highway ramps in the United States. But for me, it’s perhaps the most important ramp. Its closure means that my principal route to work, the one that has been ingrained into my brain and every fiber of my being after years of mindless commuting, is not available. It means that I have to get out of my mental rut, abandon my snug comfort zone, and find another route to the heart of downtown Columbus during the morning rush hour. It means I have to experiment with alternatives during a time of day when hastily selected alternative routes usually mean delay and disaster.
So far I’ve tried two options. The planned alternative has the weird, jury-rigged feel you often get with traffic engineer reroutings. You exit I-670 at I-71, follow a narrow, two-lane channel between temporary barricades, then make a hairpin two-lane exit onto Spring Street. I’ve taken that route several times, two of which embroiled me in significant traffic jams. The other option was an experiment that ended in colossal failure. I exited I-670 one stop early, wound through some city streets, then found myself snarled in complete gridlock around the Columbus State campus. I won’t be trying that option again.
I’m steeling myself for the challenge of finding that elusive alternative route that will take me smoothly downtown on uncongested streets. In the meantime, I’m just going to brace myself — and leave 10 minutes earlier than normal.