Liberty Twp. Trustee Tom Farrell says he is prepared to do battle with the state over a new Millikin Road interchange he and his fellow trustees consider a top priority, even over fixing Liberty Way.
The trustees met Tuesday afternoon with their consultant and Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens to go over their “purpose and need” statement for the Ohio Department of Transportation. They were told they really don’t have the traffic and safety data to support the interchange at Interstate 75.
“The purpose and need has to have as its foundation congestion and safety before economic development. It has to,” consultant Andy Shahan told the trustees. “The data has to show that.”
The township needs the interchange to open up its northeastern edge that is ripe for commercial development. But Farrell said it is more than just about economic development, they need to build an entire transportation network in that area, which includes extending Cox Road north to Millikin Road.
He said the county and the township capitulated when the Liberty Way interchange at Ohio 129 was built and now they have a problem interchange that needs fixing. He said they either had to agree to the state’s plan or lose funding.
“It was basically build it their way or not at all. We did the right thing and built it,” Farrell said. “I want to do the right thing this time and I want to fight about it and I want to make the right business decision. This is silly, we’re spending this kind of money on Liberty Way as opposed to putting in Millikin to support this area for generations.”
Wilkens recently got the county commissioners concurrence to pay a consulting firm almost $1 million to fine tune plans for fixing Liberty Way. Rough estimates on that project are $30 to $40 million.
Trustee Steve Schramm said there is a logical business reason for putting Millikin ahead of the Liberty Way project. If Millikin were done first development will come and bring a revenues to help pay for the Liberty Way project.
“How much life span can you buy by getting Millikin Road in, bleeding traffic off (Liberty Way) and letting the income stream from Millikin pick up some of that load from Liberty going forward,” Schramm said. “The other way around we don’t have the income stream to offset Liberty.”
Wilkens said the state is a lot more receptive to what locals want than they used to be but it is still going to be a hard sell.
“I understand what you’re driving at but I don’t think you’re ever going to get recognition from ODOT and the feds in that, that recognize the problem at Liberty, they are on the property at Liberty,” he said. “To say that by putting Millikin up I’m going to resolve part of this problem, I don’t think you’ll ever convince them.”
Trustee President Christine Matacic said she also believes if they can show the state all the traffic that is currently using Liberty Way and Ohio 63 and growth projections in both Butler and Warren counties on that stretch of Interstate 75, they could make a better case for the Millikin Road interchange.
“We need those numbers, not just for Liberty Twp. but Mason, Deerfield, Turtlecreek, Monroe, Fairfield Twp. and West Chester Twp.,” she said. “Because they’re all surrounding us and they’re all utilizing these pathways that are being created as well as the business centers that are being created.”
Shahan told the trustees his team could use some of their “institutional knowledge” in strengthening the data and they will be back probably within a month with a new statement to help convince the state Millikin is a must-do project.
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