The South Hamilton Crossing project, which city leaders hope will improve traffic flow between Ohio 4, the Miami University Hamilton campus and Hamilton’s west side, is ahead of schedule.
It’s so ahead of schedule at this point, it is possible the roadway could be open by the end of this year, rather than the official target date of December 2018. On the other hand, local officials probably will wait until the project is completely finished next spring before the roadway opens for traffic.
If the project were to open this year, with just the base layer of asphalt, it probably would have to be shut down again in early 2018 to lay down the top layer of asphalt and make other finishing touches, said David Spinney, executive director of the Butler County Transportation Improvement District, which is managing the long-sought highway project.
“To be perfectly honest, the original construction schedule gave the contractor a lot of latitude, because we didn’t know exactly when we were going to get started in the middle of the construction season,” Spinney said. “So the actual contract completion date is December of 2018.”
“Just to give you an idea where we are, that called for the actual steel fabrication to be done next spring,” Spinney said. “It’s being done now…. We’re looking to have the majority of work done by the end of the year (2017), if the weather cooperates.”
Even if the weather is good and that happens, “there’ll be some additional work to be done next year, such as the final course of asphalt and some concrete work. But the majority of the work we hope to have completed by the beginning of winter.”
Might people be driving on it then?
“That’s a decision we’ll have to make,” Spinney said. “We’re hoping to have most of the asphalt work done this year, and then the final top course next year. So I’m reluctant to say we will or we won’t have it open for traffic. Because one of the issues is if we open it up to traffic, we’ll have to close it again to do the work. So I’ll have to sit down and talk with the contractor, see where we are in November, and talk with the city, to see how we want to approach it.”
Hamilton Public Works Director Rich Engle, for his part, doesn’t consider it a good idea to open the new roadway, only to close it again.
“If we have to close it again, I don’t think I would open it to begin with,” said Engle, who noted many months are left before the work is finished: “Who knows what’s going to happen over the next nine months?”
“We were hopeful that it would open earlier than December of 2018, that’s for sure,” Engle said. If only a base of asphalt has been laid down, “I don’t think I’d put traffic on it, at that point. I’d wait until it’s all finished.”
The project’s construction will total about $18 million, but property purchases, roadway design and other costs put total price tag for South Hamilton Crossing in the upper-$20 millions, Spinney said.
“The contractor’s doing well, even though we’ve had all this rain,” Spinney said. “The significant amount of embankment work is proceeding quite well, and the utility work is moving along quite well, so we’re happy with that.”
It’s helpful that most of the utilities — water, sewers, storm-water, gas and electric — involves city-of-Hamilton operations, although Cincinnati Bell fiber optics also are involved.
“The sooner the better, obviously,” Engle said.
“It provides a second grade separation (underpass or overpass) over the CSX (railroad) tracks, which will make a significant difference,” Spinney said. “Right now, people tend to head up to High Street because they know they can get through (without being delayed by a train), but High Street becomes really congested, and this will provide a second access.”
Spinney added: “It also will extend Grand Boulevard all the way to University (Boulevard), so it really opens that whole are up near University for more development, provides a better access to (Vora Technology Park at 101 Knightsbridge Drive), as well as the (Miami) university campus.”
There’s some debate over how much the new highway will have on High Street traffic, Engle said: “I think it’ll have some. There’s varying opinions on how much, but especially now, with the at-grade crossing closed at South Hamilton Crossing.”
Engle noted traffic to and from the city’s West Side will be able to use the Columbia Bridge, which connects Pershing Avenue with B Street and New London Road, and use South Hamilton Crossing to reach Ohio 4 and the Ohio 4 Bypass, avoiding High Street.