The daily mob of cars inching their way on and off Interstate 75 at the Union Centre Boulevard interchange during morning and evening rush hours could be gone in a few years.
The Butler County engineer and West Chester Twp. trustees have agreed on a project design that should clear congestion in the area that has seen a wealth of new development — and traffic — in its 20-year existence.
The township will construct what is known as a “diverging diamond” design — a $13 million option — that should unclog the bottleneck when too many vehicles are trying to get off and on the overpass.
The diverging diamond design eliminates left-hand turns. How it does that can be tough to visualize. In short, the traffic pattern briefly sends cars over to the left side of the road. Drivers wanting to get on the interstate no longer have to wait for a left-turn signal: They simply veer off to the left as they cross the bridge and head down the ramp.
“It looks confusing maybe on the surface, but when you are in it, you just go with the flow and you won’t even recognize what’s really taking place,” Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens said.
Additional lanes on the on-and-off ramps — where traffic back-ups going north often reach Interstate 275 — and almost doubling the length of the ramps will alleviate many problems, according to Wilkens.
The unique design will also include a pedestrian walkway that runs down the center of the bridge, with safety barriers on each side.
“What I like most about it is it will be pedestrian friendly,” Trustee George Lang said. “Right now there is no simple pedestrian access from one side of Union Centre Boulevard to the other side.”
Trustee Board President Mark Welch called the diverging diamond design “elegant” and “kind of a cool solution.”
“It’s kind of cool, because we are going to redo the architecture of the bridge, add lights to the bridge and really jazz up that interchange,” he said.
Sam Hartz, who stopped at the Starbucks near the interchange on her way to work Thursday, said she fights congestion in the area that has seen a wealth of new development, like IKEA and TopGolf, in its 20-year existence.
“I think it’s great,” she said of the plans. “Why not?”
The project will be totally funded with Tax Increment Financing money. Wilkens said state and federal funds are not available.
“I guess you always hope there are going to be other funds but we have managed the TIF in a conservative way so there is plenty of money in the TIF in order to handle this project,” Lang said.
As of the end of last year the township had $23.5 million in the Union Centre Boulevard TIF.
These TIF districts are an economic development tool that many local governments use to encourage new investment in an area. A district typically surrounds a parcel or group of parcels and enables the taxpayers within it to make payments into a special fund in an amount equal to their property tax liability for the life of the TIF. These payments in lieu of taxes are used by the local governments to retire debt incurred for the infrastructure improvements — such as roads and water and sewer lines — needed to support current and future development in the area of the TIF.
The construction should begin in 2019 and will take about a year-and-a-half. Wilkens said they have staged the project so drivers will have the option of using an improved Cincinnati Dayton Road as an alternative during the Union Centre Boulevard construction.
The Cincinnati Dayton Road project to the north entails widening the road to four lanes through Olde West Chester from Dimmick Road up to I-75.
Jamila Watson said she has a 45-minute commute to Northern Kentucky every day and anything that helps with construction congestion is a positive.
“ I just hope it’s the plan to get it done as quickly as possible. It’s when construction projects last like five years … I drive up and down 75 so there’s always something going on. So as long as they have a plan for not having it too inconvenient for a little while, I think that’s fine.”
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