Liberty Twp. approves $100K to study possible new I-75 interchange

The Liberty Twp. trustees have long prioritized a new Millikin Road interchange at Interstate 75 and now approved investing $100,000 in a feasibility study, as the next step in addressing future congestion and financial stability of the township.

The township got the nod from the Ohio Department of Transportation in January that the interchange is a priority project and work could proceed. The trustees approved taking the next step Tuesday by authorizing an intergovernmental agreement with the Butler County Transportation Improvement District to help fund the study.

“The feasibility study is to analyze whether this is the best way to resolve the traffic issues,” Trustee Steve Schramm said. “This will determine whether this will be more judicious than to spend lots of money to widen Cincinnati Dayton Road and Butler Warren Road and Bethany Road. You know try to solve the problem in another way.”

There are about 700 undeveloped acres slated for commercial development in the Millikin Road area and a total of 1,200 acres would be opened up — which would hold the equivalent of 12 Liberty Centers —when Cox Road is extended to Ohio 63 and if an interchange is built at Millikin Road.

RELATED: New I-75 interchange in Butler County takes huge step forward

The trustees were told when they started the “purpose and need” statement process for ODOT approval with Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens in 2017, that economic development wasn’t a good enough reason for the state to approve the interchange, but traffic predictions are.

Trustee Board President Christine Matacic said the traffic predictions for a rapidly growing area like Liberty were initially flawed, but once the right numbers were used, the interchange was approved. She said the interchange itself will cost about $40 million but to create the entire road system they need could double the price. She said there are new estimates that put the total new traffic system price at around $115 million, but she thinks a generous cushion for contingencies is included. She now envisions the interchange opening, if everything goes according to plan, in six or seven years.

The $40-plus million Liberty Way interchange project was funded by Liberty, West Chester Twp. and the county, through a number of mechanisms like tax increment financing (TIF), joint economic development districts (JEDD) and other assessments. Matacic said the new interchange project will require outside help as well.

“We had various sources and we are looking at all those kinds of possibilities right now,” Matacic said. “With Liberty interchange we did that 100 percent funded ourselves. This one we’re already getting in the queue to get some funding through OKI and the state and feds.”

While traffic is a major driver behind this project, the trustees say equally important is its potential to expand the tax base by growing the commercial footprint.

“Financially it’s the future of the township, not only for us but for our next generation, is dependent upon a strong infrastructure and business entities within the township,” Trustee Tom Farrell said. “I-75 corridor is still a booming industry, smack dab in the middle of Cincinnati and Dayton, bringing the metroplex together, this is key to doing that.”

Liberty Way is scheduled for a $30 million “fix” because it has been deemed dangerous for drivers who have to weave to navigate getting on and off at I-75. Some people have commented all this infrastructure work is unnecessary.

“The only way that we can keep taxes from going up on individuals down the road is to find some commercial resources to tap for tax money,” Schramm said. “Otherwise if we keep growing at the rate we’re growing, there is no way we’re going to be able to stand with the present tax base to drive our police, our fire, our roads.”

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