Two titans of Hamilton transportation attended Hamilton’s City Council meeting Wednesday, and one was there to make sure the other received his due praise.
City Council members issued a proclamation and approved a resolution that named a century-in-the-making new highway segment as the “Jim Blount South Hamilton Crossing” in honor of Blount, a historian who focused on transportation issues, his city’s lore and also worked hard to advance Butler County’s traffic situations through the years.
The South Hamilton Crossing project has been called for, on and off, since at least 1911, according to Blount, a former Journal-News editor. Its largest benefits will be a much better connection between Ohio 4 and the area around Miami University Hamilton, as well as the city’s West Side.
For all those years, traffic has been snagged and delayed by trains that the overpass will pass over.
Also attending Wednesday’s meeting was Bernard J. “Jack” Kirsch, who served as Hamilton City Manager from 1975-83, and had another important rail solution named for him. That was the Jack Kirsch railroad underpass just east of High Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, that lets cars, trucks and emergency vehicles pass below the railroad tracks with speed and efficiency. Kirsch’s underpass comes complete with pumps that remove water from the highway during heavy rains.
The city’s proclamation praised Blount for many accomplishments, including the South Hamilton Crossing itself; his advocacy for an Alexander Hamilton statue along High Street; the low-level dam south of the downtown; most of the city’s historical markers; his being named Hamilton Citizen of the Year for 2005 and Hamilton City Schools Teacher of the Year for 1991-92.
Kirsch called Blount “a force in the city for over 50 years,” with other accomplishments, such as construction of the Columbia Bridge over the Great Miami River, creation of the Hamilton Economic Development Corporation, and even the Jack Kirsch Underpass, which Kirsch said received a lot of written Blount support through the years. His writing also supported the Greenup Hydroelectric Plant on the Ohio River, which last year was joined by the Meldahl Hydroelectric Plant.
Blount said he focused on transportation issues because he believed the advice he received that successful places tended to have excellent transportation. He focused on local history — rather than state or national — because a history professor told him lots of people wanted to write about states or the nation, and local history tended to not been as well-done.
Blount, who holds history degrees from the University of Cincinnati (bachelor’s, 1958) and Miami University (master’s, 1964), helped push for the Ohio 129 extension connecting I-75 with Hamilton and the South Hamilton Crossing itself as volunteer chairman for 16 years of the Butler County Transportation Improvement District (and member since 1994), he helped make the project happen.
Blount was praised by several city officials, who also called him their friend.