Post-pandemic Inflation strikes again in Butler County, nearly doubling the cost of a new stoplight slated for the intersection of Tylersville and Smith roads in West Chester Twp.
The township trustees approved spending $401,000 last week to install a new traffic signal at the intersection nearly a mile west of Ohio 747, it is a joint project with Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens. The township will pay for the signal with TIF dollars and Wilkens’ office is managing the project.
Trustee Lee Wong was taken aback at the price, saying traffic signals aren’t usually this steep. Community Services Director Arun Hindupur said the project is much higher than the original $250,000 estimate.
“Due to the global pandemic affecting supply chains and materials and everything, they kind of came in above everybody’s preliminary estimate,” Hindupur said.
The project was actually bid about eight months ago — the lead time to get the traffic signal equipment has grown to eight or nine months — when inflation had started to set in so Wilkens revised the estimate to $409,903.
Wilkens said the signal is warranted because the traffic counts are growing and there’s “a little bit of accident history.”
He generally prefers roundabouts to traffic signals because they are generally safer, but he told the Journal-News at this location no road widening or other improvements were necessary, so the signal was the best option.
“The truth is I’m putting $400,000 in a signal which by old standards is outlandish, but it is what it is today,” Wilkens said. “If I put a roundabout in, roundabouts are going for $1.8 million now.”
He said the project will likely begin mid-February or early March and should be completed within three months.
Trustee Ann Becker asked if delaying the project to see if inflation calms down might be prudent. Township Administrator Larry Burks said he spoke with Wilkens about the prices and “I don’t want to sound all doom and gloomy he made it sound like there was no relief in sight for the prices we’re experiencing right now.”
The trustees also authorized a resolution to contribute $2 million in TIF funding for the new roundabout going in at Tylersville and Beckett roads. Becker jokingly asked if they could just “recycle” those traffic lights and move them over to Smith Road, the answer was no. Wilkens hasn’t bid the project yet.
Cities manage their own road maintenance and paving programs, but the county engineer bids and supervises township road projects, and the townships pay for the work.
Last year Wilkens office had to rebid three projects because the prices came in 10% or more above the original estimates. The county commissioners recently authorized bidding paving projects for this year, the proposals are due Jan. 31.
The commissioners gave a healthy boost to paving projects for county and townships, allocating $5 million worth of ARPA money. With that windfall the paving plan is estimated at $17 million, up from $9.3 million budgeted last year.
Wilkens said “inflation scares us all to death” about the upcoming construction season.
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