As it is, the project will take two construction seasons.
Wilkens identified some of the most impactful projects for drivers:
- The $7 million project widening Cincinnati Dayton Road to four lanes from West Chester Road to Interstate 75
- A new roundabout at Hamilton Mason and LeSourdsville West Chester Road
- A new roundabout at Beckett and Smith roads in West Chester
- Widening Ohio 747 to five lanes between Princeton and Millikin roads, another $7 million project
- The final phase of the Yankee Road improvement from Dutchland Parkway to Princeton Road
During the Yankee Road construction, resident Mike Mayleben, who lives in the area, said things can be tough at first but drivers adapt.
“It’s been insane,” he said of the traffic. “But to be fair it was worse the first few days when school went back however traffic is typically a little worse (then). But having that intersection cut off made it just a lot worse. I think there was more frustration at the beginning, but as people got used to it … everybody was going the same route, but now it’s kind of equalized.”
The other big ticket project for 2018 was actually supposed to start last fall, but utility relocation became a problem for the Ohio 747 project. Wilkens said those issues have been cleared, and construction is scheduled to start next month.
The $7.12 million project calls for widening the major thoroughfare to five full lanes and adding sidewalks on both sides of the roadway. A new turn lane on Millikin Road to Ohio 747 and a turn lane from Ohio 747 to Princeton Road are also part of the project.
The roundabout projects will require road closures, but West Chester Twp Trustee Mark Welch said the projects have been spaced to avoid gridlock in the township during construction.
“I know Greg is going to stage these different projects, he’s not going to start the divergent diamond interchange over at Union Centre Boulevard until Cincinnati Dayton Road is finished. On Cincinnati Dayton Road we’ve been dealing with the moving of utilities and the fixing of this and that for more than a year,” Welch said. “It probably will get a little bit worse before it gets better, but it’s really needed.”
MORE: Trustees approve diverging diamond design to break UCB bottleneck
West Chester has set aside $12 million in tax increment financing monies to pay for the interchange improvement. Most county road projects require a mix of federal, state and local contributions. Wilkens’ local budget relies in part on gasoline tax revenues, a funding source that continues to dwindle with the advent of fuel-efficient vehicles.
“The reality of it is somewhere along the line we’re going to have to move in that direction (a new funding source) because if we move to electric cars and the way the gas tax is structured today those budgets are going to continue down,” Wilkens said. “And let me tell you the cost of construction is not continuing down, it’s absolutely going the other way.”
Gas tax collections for the county have remained relatively flat in the $2.3 million range since 2007, but Wilkens’ spokesman Chris Petrocy says that’s not the entire story.
“According to the Federal Highway Administration, the Producer Price Index for paving mixtures and blocks, concrete products, and fabricated structural metal grew by approximately 5.7 percent, 3.7 percent, and 2.9 percent per year, respectively between 2003 and 2016,” Petrocy said. “Labor costs have also increased. Bottom line is gas tax income isn’t keeping pace with the cost of doing business.”
Wilkens said there is a big concern in his industry about how technology will impact the current funding structure — gasoline taxes — and there are studies in the works investigating taxing people based on the miles they travel. Wilkens said while many people are worried about the “Big Brother” aspect, most newer cars can be tracked for mileage.
“It’s an equitable system,” he said. “If you travel more, you use the roads more, you pay more. That’s the same principle gasoline tax was set up on.”
Another large chunk of Wilkens’ capital budget is for repaving and fixing county and township roads. The townships pay for the projects out of their own budgets but Wilkens bids and oversees the projects. The plan is to spend $6.5 million on resurfacing this year.
Liberty Twp. recently approved spending $861,210 on repaving for 2018. Trustee Tom Farrell said while the big road projects get the most attention, most residents really only care about the potholes on their own streets, what’s why they spend so much money in that area. He encouraged residents to check out Wilkens’ website to see where paving crews will be this summer.
“What most of the residents care about, they certainly care about the main arterial roads, the Yankee and the 747,” Farrell said. “But a lot of them also care about their roads that are being paved… It’s a lot of money and we’re doing a lot of roads next summer.”
A full listing of Butler County road projects is available on the engineer's website at www.bceo.org/current.html