From country two-lane road to five-lane corridor in Warren County

Surveyors worked recently on a $2 million roundabout to be built at Union and Greentree roads in Warren County, a key crossroads in a multi-million dollar plan to turn a twisting country two-lane road into a five-lane transportation corridor.

East of Interstate 75, the Union Road Corridor will connect the area around the Atrium Medical Center in Middletown south to the Miami Valley Gaming racino near Monroe.

The long-range vision stretches even further and would see it extended north to Franklin, where it would cross I-75, and south to the Liberty Center and other developments in Butler County.

“It probably will be a domino effect,” said Martin Russell, economic development director in Warren County. “It connects you in both directions.”

Union Road is already a five-lane boulevard heading north and south from Ohio 122 and the medical campus on Middletown. A section, north of the racino, near the Solid Rock Church, has already been straightened - a change that cost $535,0000. Warren County plans to spend $4 million building the corridor, and it will pay for it using money it receives in tax incremental financing from the racino developers.

While regional leaders are touting the plan, some residents are already nostalgic for a time before the development began. “I hate it all, ” said Barbara Ray, who lives with her husband across from one of the entrances to the medical complex. “This was the country.”

Over the next 10 to 30 years, plans are for much, if not all, of Union Road to become five lanes wide.

Earlier this month, district engineers said it was too soon to provide maps of the full, proposed route.

But drawings in recent long-range plans for the area show the corridor leaving Union Road’s current path, north of the roundabout at Greentree Road and veering slightly east. It would rejoin the existing roadway around Hendrickson Road, continuing on across Ohio 122 toward Franklin.

Greentree junction

For decades, west of the roundabout and I-75 on Greentree, the Berns family has operated a nursery and landscaping business.

“We’ve been part of the local community our whole lifetime,” Mike Berns said.

The family owns 160 acres straddling the I-75 interchange proposed at Greentree. Some of the lands have been used to grow trees and shrubs, one section extends east from the interstate to Union Road.

"Now they are going to be part of the new Gateway West project," Berns said.

“This I-75 corridor is just a strong magnet for commercial and retail development,” Berns said. “Nothing’s gonna stop it. The best thing we can do is plan for the future so it’s a good thing 10, 20, 30 years from now.”

Opening up 26 square miles

The Union Road Corridor is expected to open up for development thousands of acres, many of them farm fields.

The project is also being built in an attempt to ease east-west transportation from parts of Middletown west of I-75 to the east.

“This is our front door, our growth engine for high-paying jobs,” said Denise Hamet, economic development director in Middletown.

From Greentree Road, drivers will be able to cross I-75 into Middletown’s industrial district and continue west as far Miami University in Oxford. Heading east, Greentree goes toward a proposed 1,400-acre Union Village development west of Lebanon.

The Union Road Corridor is also expected to offer local drivers an alternative to I-75 for trips north to the hospital campus and south past the racino to Ohio 63 and the Premium Outlets Mall and another I-75 interchange.

From here the route is to continue south through a new industrial park under development along Gateway Boulevard in Monroe to Butler-Warren Road, all the way to the shopping, restaurants and other retail development under construction at Liberty Center in Butler County.

“The City has recognized the alignments that must be created to promote efficient vehicular flow along the corridor. We have aligned Gateway Boulevard in such a manner that it will connect the future improvements to Union Road to Butler-Warren Road to the south,” Monroe City Manager Bill Brock said in an email.

As far as long-time residents like the Rays, Russell said the development should not necessarily cause them to move out. “They don’t have to sell anything,” he said. “Probably as the road is enhanced, it has enhanced their property value. That’s a private decision.”