Despite a few pandemic-related hiccups, most major road projects in Butler County have gone off without a hitch, and even bigger improvements are slated for next year.
The Butler County engineer and officials in Fairfield, Hamilton and Middletown are reporting the big projects in their jurisdictions have been or will be completed on time and at budget. There have been concerns about the global labor and materials shortage but it has only surfaced on a few projects this year.
“You deal with it,” County Engineer Greg Wilkens said. “Surely it’s played a role and its played a role on everybody but you deal the best you can with it. The contractors did and we did.”
Wilkens said the virus hit close to home because one of his staff recently died due to COVID-19, “the stuff’s real,” he said.
Rich Engel, Hamilton’s director of engineering, said the $14.8 million Spooky Nook infrastructure and utility project has been pushed into a December completion date because of COVID-19.
“We’re almost done, but it was supposed to be done in September,” Engel said. “For this particular project the concrete subcontractor had a lot of lost days.”
The orange barrels and detour signs drivers have coped with this year were for contracts for early this year and some late last year. Signs are positive going forward if the latest contract the county commissioners awarded is any indication.
They approved a $2.24 million contract with Rack and Ballauer last week for the massive Five Points roundabout. The construction estimate was $2.6 million and Wilkens received eight bids, the highest was $2.63 million. The Five Points intersection straddles the border of Hamilton and Fairfield Twp., and is a crossroads where Hancock Avenue, Grand Boulevard, Tylersville Road, Hamilton-Mason Road and Tuley Road meet.
Wilkens said the total cost with right-of-way purchases and engineering was $3.9 million, the state is covering $1.96 million and the county and Hamilton are splitting the rest. This is the first roundabout in the county with five access points. He said they hope to start construction in early spring and finish by the end of the year. Traffic will be maintained on Grand Boulevard and Hamilton-Mason “the other ones will be generally closed.”
Another tricky roundabout is set — weather permitting — to open this week on the outskirts of Trenton at Wayne Madison and Trenton roads. Wilkens built four roundabouts this year at a cost of $6.35 million.
The largest county project is the massive $24 million interchange modification at Liberty Way, Ohio 129 and Interstate 75, it is about 25% complete but the contractor intends to keep working throughout the winter as weather permits.
The interchange modification is not the only piece of this project, there are other improvements associated with the interchange project. The new interchange design will take Ohio 129 over to a new roundabout at Cox Road; Veterans Boulevard will be extended and improved with two new roundabouts and Liberty Way will be widened. The total cost of all the work is estimated at $32.5 million.
Wilkens office also handled the $6 million contract for repaving eight county roads and 65 township roads. Those projects are essentially complete except for some stripping.
Hamilton and Middletown both have new aggressive repaving programs thanks to their taxpayers passing new funding avenues to speed up fixing broken streets.
Middletown launched a blitz of road resurfacing spending this year, including $51.6 million to fix a third (217) of the 621 lane miles in the city over the next two years. The rapid resurfacing was made possible with a 0.25 percent, 10-year income tax levy voters approved last November.
Public Works Director Scott Tadych told the Journal-News they are wrapping up repaving about 90 road miles in the next couple weeks.
Hamilton voters also opened their wallets for road repairs, approving a 10-year, 3.9-mill levy to fix residential streets last year. The city is spending about $4.58 million resurfacing and repairing 25 streets, this year and next. Engel said they finished 12 streets this year and they are on budget, the remainder will be completed next year.
The most exciting and innovative project in the county is Hamilton’s centralized traffic signal project that is set to start next month. Engel said the $5.6 million project will take 18 to 24 months and 97 signalized intersections that will be retrofitted with smart technology to adjust to traffic flow. The Ohio Department of Transportation is picking up $4.2 million of the cost.
He said the best example of how the system will work is when Hamilton High School football games end.
“This system we will be able to program the traffic signals on, for instance, Main Street and Eaton Avenue, that will ... starting at 9 p.m. start looking at traffic and adjusting accordingly and giving more green time to allow traffic to disburse easier and faster,” Engel said. “Obviously when we have special events at Spooky Nook that we know there’s going to be a lot of traffic; we can adjust those as well.”
Fairfield Public Works Director Ben Mann said they have a project at Interstate 275 that isn’t “big in price or scale, but we hope will have a large impact on rush hour traffic for one of our busiest corridors.” Barrett Paving was awarded the $726,331 contract to widen the westbound I-275 on-ramp.
“Barrett will be substantially complete in the next couple of weeks with the additional lane onto 275 being put into service. Final paving will have to wait until spring due to the onset of cold temperatures,” Mann said. “Overhead signs will not be in place until January due to material delays, even though the contractor ordered them late last summer.”
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