After a year-and-a-half the $7.8 million Cincinnati-Dayton Road widening project in West Chester Twp. is substantially complete and all lanes are open.
Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens said there are still some minor finishing touches, such as a few utility poles need to be relocated, new decorative street lighting and the township will install a pocket park at Station Road, but traffic will not be disrupted again.
The $7.8 million project — mainly funded with federal funds — included widening the road to four lanes from West Chester Road to Interstate 75, new sidewalks and decorative lighting, five crosswalks, a bridge replacement, a bridge widening and a new pocket park at Station Road.
Moe Ismail said Halls Carry-Out nearly went out of the business during the construction, but things have picked up now that the orange pylons and heavy equipment have moved out.
“It was almost out of business, kind of slow. It was one lane and cones all over the place, it’s like nobody can come in and it’s taking forever, more than a year and half,” Ismail said, adding he is glad it’s over. “Big time, more customers more business.”
Wilkens said he knows the lengthy project has been very hard on business owners who line the street through Olde West Chester.
“They’re dying during the project, it does have an effect on them,” Wilkens said. “But after a project we’ve heard numbers as high as 20, 25 percent increase in foot traffic into the businesses.”
Marc Henn, president of Harvest Financial Advisors, said a group of business owners banded together and worked with the township to get as many aesthetics into the project as possible. He said when they learned it was cost-prohibitive to bury the utility lines they shifted their focus.
“We had to say if we’re going to have these towering poles and all these lines how can we bring the aesthetics down to the ground closer where you don’t look up at the power lines, you look at the benches, the tree lines, the decorative signs, the lights,” Henn said. “Aesthetically, we want to take away from the power lines and make it as pleasing to the eye as you come down this corridor.”
Bill Lendl with Raymond James Financial Services, another business owner who has worked on the beautification aspects, said the amenities are coming. He said 32 decorative street lamps will be added, decorative traffic signs, likely benches and “little landscapey-type things” at the five new crosswalks, possibly a “Welcome to Olde West Chester” sign.
“It’s going to be beautiful, they did a great job the township and Butler County,” Lendl said, noting people did complain throughout construction, which he said is natural, but given the complexities involved with widening a very narrow corridor and dealing with multiple utilities, “overall I think they did an outstanding job.”
The Village Spa owner Jan Arents disagreed. She said because the road was elevated, she now has to re-do the parking lot at her establishment because of drainage issues.
“Hallelujah, thank God,” was her first reaction when asked about the finished project. “It’s been horrible, lots of problems and damages and issues.”
She said the county hasn’t been very cooperative on the parking lot issue. Wilkens said the Arents didn’t like his proposed fix, which was a small drainage basin, so the county paid the spa owners about $5,000, the price of the basin, to put toward their solution.
Colene Fogelson, who mans the front desk at the spa, said the new road encourages speeders.
“It’s a lot heavier traffic, it just goes by a lot faster,” Fogelson said. “That’s what I do is watch it all day, leaving in and out of here you now have to kind of leapfrog through two lanes going 45 to 50 m.p.h. With the semi-trucks coming through the building actually rattles, it’s kind of crazy.”
West Chester Twp. Board President Mark Welch said the township can address the speed issue.
“The speed limit is pretty much controlled by Ohio Revised Code, that is a county road, I think the posted speed limit is 35,” he said. “Really all we can do at this point is to show a police presence and we can probably get some of those devises up that says what your speed is to help them (drivers) be mindful of that.”
Henn said the landscaping and amenities should also have a traffic calming effect.
Wilkens said all the bills haven’t been tallied yet, but he believes the project will come in on target cost-wise, possibly even under budget. The only major hiccup was at the very beginning when a contractor severed an underground cable. Several properties, including the township offices, were without phones and internet for about 20 hours.
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