Hamilton seeks better east-west traffic flow with Spooky Nook on the horizon

Hamilton is searching for ways to improve east-west traffic through the city, especially east of the Great Miami River, as the gigantic indoor sports complex called Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill gets ready to open around the end of this year or early 2022. FILE PHOTO BY GREG LYNCH / STAFF
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Hamilton is searching for ways to improve east-west traffic through the city, especially east of the Great Miami River, as the gigantic indoor sports complex called Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill gets ready to open around the end of this year or early 2022. FILE PHOTO BY GREG LYNCH / STAFF

With the Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill looking to open by Dec. 31, Hamilton officials are seeking ways to improve east-west traffic through the city, especially east of the Great Miami River, as soon as they can.

The proposed North Hamilton Crossing, which would include a bridge over the Great Miami River and likely an overpass above CSX railroad tracks, could take 10 years or longer, and its expense could extend that timeframe even longer because federal grants will be necessary, City Manager Joshua Smith recently told the Journal-News.

Officials also must identify shorter-term solutions, he added.

Officials must “keep figuring out ways to improve traffic in Hamilton,” he said, noting there are only three Hamilton bridges across the Great Miami River. Also, there is just one overpass (the new South Hamilton Crossing) and one underpass (at High Street) that help motorists avoid delays caused by waiting for trains.

Local officials have to do a better job “leveraging available state and federal grants to build additional over- or underpasses at key corridors so we can help our citizens and our businesses move traffic easier in and out of Hamilton,” he said.

Traffic is most heavy on High and Main streets, especially at rush hours. Residents are concerned that when Spooky Nook begins attracting 10,000 or more athletes and their families on weekends for tournaments, traffic will worsen.

To help with that, the city in late January told the consultant who is working on the necessary report for North Hamilton Crossing to prepare a report evaluating other east-west options

North Hamilton Crossing, which could cost $75 million or more, remains a priority, and local officials will push ahead with the required engineering and environmental studies for it, Smith said. But he added that Hamilton should be more proactive in asking whether a train underpass or overpass can be built at Heaton Street, a few blocks north of High Street, or Hanover Street, a few blocks south of High.

Other improvements coming

Meanwhile, other improvements are on the way that can help alleviate traffic issues. The most helpful may be the “smart” Centracs system of traffic signals that city staff and consultants can adjust as they see traffic delays developing. Such systems also are so sophisticated, they even can “see” traffic issues developing and can make adjustments on their own.

Explore‘Smart’ traffic-signal system coming to Hamilton to help flow

Mason has had such a system for years, and Hamilton plans to upgrade its 97 traffic signals for $5.25 million, with $4.2 million coming through the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments, and the other $1.05 million the city’s responsibility.

Design of the traffic system “should be complete sometime in 2021,” Smith said, and he hopes it will be under construction later this year.

Another project is the currently under-construction reworking of the intersection of Main Street with Cereal and Haldimand avenues, which will improve traffic flow and crash on Hamilton’s West Side.

After that, the next intersection to receive safety improvements will be Hampshire Drive and Ohio 129 on the city’s far east side. From 2016 through 2019, the Hampshire/Ohio 129 intersection had 67 wrecks, with almost 48 percent causing injuries.

ExploreHamilton’s next high-crash target: Hampshire Drive and Ohio 129