Millikin Road interchange gets OK from federal government

Liberty Twp. trustees just received federal approval to build a new Millikin Road interchange at Interstate 75.

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Liberty Twp. trustees just received federal approval to build a new Millikin Road interchange at Interstate 75.

Construction could start by 2027 as funding efforts move forward.

Liberty Twp. officials are ecstatic now that the federal government has given its blessing to the Millikin Road interchange project, since it will open up huge commercial development opportunities to ease the pain on residential taxpayers.

Since the new interchange will cross a federal highway, the township needed approval of the Interchange Justification Study by the Ohio Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration. Trustee Tom Farrell said everyone told them they probably couldn’t get approval so “this is huge news for us.”

“The fact we got approval from the county, the state, OKI and the federal government shows that I believe everyone believes in the this investment in Liberty’s future. and that’s what it is,” Farrell said. “They don’t allow you to just build things to build them, they need to show they have long-term goals and sustainability that will meet the interest of the county and the township and the state and the federal government and we met those.”

The township has been working toward this project for years. Financial analyst Andy Brossart has conservatively estimated the $40 million interchange project, when fully phased out, is going to be worth $388 million in new investment. There are about 700 undeveloped acres slated for commercial development in the Millikin Road area, and the intersection and Cox Road extension to Ohio 63 would open better access to 1,200 acres — which would hold the equivalent of 12 Liberty Centers.

The latest cost estimate is $30 million to build the diverging diamond interchange at Interstate 75 and possibly $10 million to acquire right-of-way. The township is working with the Butler County Transportation Improvement District on the project and TID Director Dan Corey said the federal approval “is a very significant milestone.” They will begin moving into the design and right-of-way phase and obviously identifying funding.

He said they have already applied for $3.9 million in federal funds for a preliminary phase of the project, a new roundabout and widened intersection at Cincinnati Dayton Road and Millikin. Liberty Twp. will pick up the rest of the $6.5 million project.

“We’ve already started applying for federal funds, we’ve already received $1 million and we’ll just keep applying until we get it all,” Corey said adding typically federal funding for a new interchange would be capped at 50% and the rest would come locally, but that can also include federal dollars from the OKI Regional Council of Governments.

Trustee Steve Schramm said it has been difficult getting others — like the county commissioners — to buy into helping support the project when they didn’t have official approval, but “we’re now a legitimate project.”

“We’re hoping that developers now are willing to step up and take part that they are also convinced it’s a real project,” Schramm said. “I just feel there’s been hesitancy at all levels to do buy in on it over the fact we didn’t have final blessing.”

ExploreCommissioners: TIF money will not go to new Millikin Road interchange

He said they don’t have any interested parties from the developer sector yet but that’s not unusual. He said land acquisition for right-of-way is “one of the big wild cards” on a project like this and they hope people understand how much this project will eventually benefit them so they don’t get price gouged trying to buy land to build on.

“There’s none that we know of but I wouldn’t expect to know them in all candor. The whole development community in something like this will remain silent and then it just sort of happens. We have two of the corners locked up in friendly hands we feel,” Schramm said.

“We’ve got Atrium Medical Center which owns a big chunk of the northwest quadrant and then a development group from Dayton owns the southeast quadrant so that just leaves two quadrants and couple of odd pieces left that we need in the right hands we’re comfortable aren’t going to hold us up when it comes time for development.”

He said an “optimistic goal” is to start construction is 2027.

Trustee Todd Minnear has only been on the board since January but he fully supports the project. While campaigning he said voters asked him about the project and the impact on them. He told them it will help with traffic and their pocketbooks.

“This isn’t something that adds pressure to the population, and no pressure to our schools and or really too much other infrastructure,” Minnear said. “It helps from a tax standpoint and traffic.”

Schramm has met with a couple of the county commissioners individually to discuss funding and he believes they will have an official meeting with all three very soon.

The trustees had hoped to be able to the use some of the county’s University Pointe tax increment financing district funding to “front-load” the project but the commissioners recently told the Journal-News that won’t happen.

When helping out other jurisdictions financially the commissioners never want theirs to be for start-up costs. It’s not that the commissioners don’t support the interchange idea and won’t help but this vehicle isn’t the right one.

“We don’t want somebody to make a funding choice just because we got in,” Commissioner T.C. Rogers said. “A project should stand alone on its own numbers and then of course we would participate in it.”

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