Butler County’s road conditions: How are they in area communities?

Construction continues on the overpass at the interchange of Ohio 63 and Ohio 4 Wednesday, April 28, 2021 in Monroe. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Construction continues on the overpass at the interchange of Ohio 63 and Ohio 4 Wednesday, April 28, 2021 in Monroe. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Infrastructure plays a role in the $2 trillion American Jobs Plan pushed by the Biden White House, which has turned attention to the topic in recent weeks. In Butler County, the state roads and bridges varies from community to community.

More than $600 billion would go to improving the nation’s transportation infrastructure, including $115 billion for roads and bridges, according to the plan, but it’s not certain how much would come Ohio’s way. Ohio’s infrastructure received a C-minus on its report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The Journal-News spoke about road and bridge infrastructure with public works directors in Butler County’s three largest cities, and the Butler County engineer, who is responsible for county roads in Butler’s 13 townships.

HAMILTON

Hamilton’s Public Works Director Rich Engle says the city’s roads are in poor condition, which is why voters approved a 10-year, 3.9-mill levy that will generate $3.1 million a year to improve neighborhood streets. He would rate the streets of Hamilton, a city of more than 62,000 residents, as a C-minus.

“Voters felt (the levy) was important enough and our streets were in such poor condition that they were willing to put money towards them and to fix them,” Engle said.

The street levy funds will be maintained separately from Hamilton’s other funding sources for road repair, Engle said, and the citizens will be involved to determine which streets will be repaired first.

“With the street levy, we have allocated strict amounts of money to each of the city’s 17 neighborhoods based on the number of miles of streets that they have,” said Engle. “But every neighborhood will be touched by our resurfacing program in the next 10 years.”

Other funds available to the city, either local, state or federal funds, will pay for other infrastructure projects. Engle said there are minor maintenance on most of the city’s bridges, which will be performed by city crews. Hamilton recently received a $1.34 million grant from the Ohio Department of Transpiration for deck replacement project at Bilstein Bridge on Bilstein Boulevard. Hamilton’s share is $130,000.

Nearly $20 million was spent on road projects over the past three years, which was funded with state and local funds. Most, though, were part of the annual concrete repair and resurfacing project.

Pictured is a areal photo of North Gilmore Road near the rear entrance of Jungle Jim's in Fairfield. North Gilmore Road was resurfaced from Holden Boulevard to Symmes Road in 2018. CITY OF FAIRFIELD/PROVIDED
Pictured is a areal photo of North Gilmore Road near the rear entrance of Jungle Jim's in Fairfield. North Gilmore Road was resurfaced from Holden Boulevard to Symmes Road in 2018. CITY OF FAIRFIELD/PROVIDED

Credit: City of Fairfield/Provided

Credit: City of Fairfield/Provided

FAIRFIELD

Fairfield officials say the roads in their community of nearly 42,600 residents are in good condition, and the city just last year adopted a streets sustainability plan that dedicates a consistent allocation to the city’s Street Improvement Fund for road maintenance.

Fairfield’s roads are in “reasonably good condition,” said Public Works Director Ben Mann.

“With routine maintenance and paving remaining at current levels, most of our roadway system will continue to be in reasonably good condition in the near future,” he said.

As for the 23 municipal bridges, Mann said their conditions are mostly in the “fair” and “good” ratings, and no bridge is scheduled for any major repair or replacement within the next five years, he said.

“As our city ages, reinvestment in infrastructure will need to continue to be a priority in order to keep at our current condition levels,” Mann said.

The city has invested millions of dollars in repaving Ohio 4 from Seward Road to the northern border with Hamilton. The city also did a 1-mile-long roadway reconstruction in 2018 on North Gilmore Road from Holden Boulevard to Symmes Road.

There are no major bridge projects coming up, but in 2019, the city repaired the Resor Road bridge near Point Pleasant Park and the Winton Road bridge near Station 33. That cost the city nearly $463,700.

MIDDLETOWN

There aren’t many bridges Middletown is responsible for maintaining as most are on state routes or fall under the county engineer’s responsibility. The South University Boulevard bridge is undergoing a major rehabilitation project, a $2 million deck replacement that’s about halfway complete.

The roads, however, are fair to poor, said Public Works Director Scott Tadych.

“Roads are always a big topic in Middletown,” he said. “The main roads generally are in fair to good condition, but the side streets, secondary streets, residential streets are the opposite of that. They are in fair to poor condition.”

The streets levy passed in November will generate $31.3 million over a 10-year period, but that money has been bonded so the city can repave more than 200 lane miles of local streets over the next two years, which Tadych said will have a “massive” and transformative” impact on the city of more than 48,800.

That 200 lane miles of roadway represents a third of Middletown’s streets.

“Obviously the citizens of Middletown passed the paving levy, so that was instrumental in all of this, and what predicated all this work being done, so we’re really thankful they had the confidence in us to do that.”

BUTLER COUNTY

Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens’ office handles the county roads in all 13 townships. Subdivision roads, though, are the responsibility of the townships.

But of the hundreds of center lane miles of roadways he is responsible for is in good shape, he said.

“We spent some money in doing that,” Wilkens said. “That’s been a focal point for 20 years, or better.”

Like other jurisdictions, millions of state and local dollars were invested into the road and bridge work, and 95 percent of the roads are in fair or better shape.

“We only have two bridges in critical shape, and both are slated to be replaced,” he said. “We have the funding for them, it’s just a matter of waiting on the years.”

Though he’s not responsible for the subdivisions and local roads in the townships, Wilkens said the infrastructure in the unincorporated areas of the county “is relatively new.”

Road improvements are in part paid by the state’s gas tax, which was increased in 2019, but they also receive money from the license plate fees, which is a major funding source for Wikens’ office.

Hamilton voted to increase its license plate fees, Engle said. Middletown and Fairfield have not increased their license plate fees.

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