Liberty Twp. gets nearly $1 million toward making pedestrian-friendly changes

Liberty Twp. trustees took a big step toward creating a pedestrian-friendly community, securing nearly $1 million for a multi-use path on Cincinnati Dayton Road.

The township won a $933,000 Highway Safety Improvement Program grant through the Ohio Department of Transportation to build the path on the west side of the road from Liberty Way to Yankee Road.

“It is phenomenal news because it’s connecting our business community with our residents,” said Trustee Christine Matacic. “It’s adding to the connections we’ve been working on since the early 1990s.”

Several years ago, the trustees commissioned a “walkability” study that produced several options with a total cost of $11 million. The new multi-use path was one of those options along with a pedestrian bridge over Ohio 129, connecting Liberty Center to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Liberty Campus; a “cantalever” walkway on Liberty Way over Interstate 75 and a tunnel under Liberty Way from the north side of the road to Voice of America Park, among other projects.

Trustee Tom Farrell has long said creating a pedestrian-friendly community is necessary, but officials don’t want to fund it with local tax dollars.

“According to all of the experts, in order to have a sustainable urban design, with walkability for health, environment and economic benefits, the experts in zoning are saying that the suburb of the future, in order to be sustainable, must have these features,” Farrell said previously. “They must have these features because not only do the Baby Boomers want them but the Millenials and everyone in between.”

Economic Development Director Caroline McKinney said the new, 10-foot-wide asphalt path may not be built until 2023 because ODOT may need to acquire right-of-way and move utilities. She said the township plans to ask the state to move the project up. Unlike most ODOT money this grant did not require matching funds which was “very attractive” to them.

The trustees asked township staff to study costs for this project and the cantelever — which is a sort of balcony on the outside of a structure — on Liberty Way, since there is an upcoming project to fix that interchange. McKinney said it doesn’t appear the cantelever will work very well, given the on/off ramps.

The $3.2 million bridge over Ohio 129 is also unlikely because public funding, like the ODOT grant, can’t be used on private property. The township asked Liberty Center and Children’s Hospital to share in the cost. Trustee Steve Schramm said “at this point, nobody’s got deep enough pockets to want to do it.”

Farrell said the walkability plan is a little behind schedule but not forgotten. He has been the main driver behind trying to cull private funding.

“We were prior to the coronavirus but then we backed off a little bit,” Farrell said about his quest for cash. “We know our plan is aggressive but we believe it’s achievable. The more pieces you get done the better chance you have of showing the goal and objective is reachable.”

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