How Butler County hopes to spend $34M on roads, intersections and bridges

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Greg Wilkens gives an overview of 2018 road projects.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens’ to-do list includes $34 million in infrastructure projects this year, and county commissioners have added to that list for the future by asking for plans for a new bridge over the Great Miami River in Hamilton.

Wilkens’ road, bridge, intersection, interchange and repaving plans stand at around $34.4 million, including $6 million for patching and resurfacing 56 miles worth of roads. He presented that plan to commissioners last week, and Commissioner Don Dixon also asked him to get preliminary engineering plans — at a cost of around $250,000 to start — developed to put a new bridge over the Great Miami River in Hamilton.

“The whole idea would be to make a connection to Hamilton’s west side other than High Street,” Dixon told the Journal-News. “They’re talking about the development there at Spooky Nook, but whatever happens over there, there still needs to be another connection. It’s going to make a huge difference in that whole area.”

RELATED: Hamilton’s next step on Spooky Nook sports complex: visit the original

Hamilton has been working with Spooky Nook mega sports complex employees to create what will be called Spooky Nook Sports at Champion Mill, at the former Champion Paper facility on North B Street. City leaders envision the Hamilton complex as a spark for a new entertainment district along Main and High streets.

Dixon said he envisions a new bridge originating at Washington Boulevard on the west side of the river, spanning over the railroad tracks on the east side and a new road ending up in the vicinity of Ohio 4. He said it will be pricey but “doable.”

“My best guess it’s going to be $50-plus million,” he said. “We can do the engineering and in 2020 we can do a sizable amount. The state wants 50 percent (local match) so that means we’ve got to put up $25 million, that’s doable. That puts it in the realm of being something we can handle fairly easily, taken over a few years.”

The county is on track to be general fund debt-free by 2020. In 2009 the outstanding principal was $91.3 million, at the end of 2016 the balance was $34.9 million, by the end of last year the total was $26.4 million. The county has been paying about $2 million extra a year for almost three years.

On Wilkens’ list for this year are 44 projects to repair or replace five bridges; adding lanes to the ramps at the Tylersville Road and Interstate 75 interchange; install three new roundabouts; tackling some serious drainage issues like Millikin Road in Liberty Twp. and some major road widening like Cincinnati Dayton Road and Ohio 747 to name a few.

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Wilkens said the $7.2 million Cincinnati Dayton Road widening to four lanes between West Chester Road and the interstate is going to be a tricky project that will span two two construction seasons.

“This is probably one of the more difficult projects we’ve had in a while. Quite honestly we’re using the whole right-of-way down there, so we’ll be from sidewalk to sidewalk which is close to porch to porch as you go up through there,” Wilkens said. “Any time you get these type of areas, the unknown what’s out there, every day is a surprise.”

Local funding from Tax Increment Financing Districts and other sources will cover almost $15.6 million of the cost for the capital project plan and the remaining $18.8 million is coming from state and federal grants.

Wilkens said Butler County is second only to Cuyahoga County in successfully culling federal grants but he said that funding source is hard to come by because it is a competitive process. He said his staff has learned the right “art and science” in picking the right projects to go for and get the money.

He said they cannot get federal money for paving projects, that’s why TIF funding is so vital in trying to keep the county and township roads pothole-free. When Wilkens took office in 2001 the resurfacing cycle was about 32 years, by last year he had that down to 24 years. The goal is to resurface roads every 15-16 years, Wilkens said they are about 10 years out on that.

“With the program we’ve got allocated now, you can see that’s why there is $5.6 million in asphalt resurfacing,” Wilkens said. “Which is a big number… That’s to lower our life cycle, we should be around 17 years continuing on this program.”

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