Retail development is fueling $2.3 million in road improvements for a Butler County roadway over the next six months.
The improvements, which started Wednesday, are meant to accommodate the projected doubling of traffic along Liberty Way, which is the border of Liberty and West Chester townships.
On the north side of Liberty Way in Liberty Twp., Columbus-based Steiner + Associates is in the final stretch of construction on Liberty Center, a $350 million mega retail complex slated to open this October. To the south of the road in West Chester Twp., Cabela’s is building an 82,000-square-foot store, also slated to open in October.
To help ease traffic coming to and leaving from the area, an additional right-turn lane is being added at the ramp from Liberty Way onto Interstate 75 south and at the ramp from Ohio 129 onto Liberty Way, which sees more than 11,000 vehicles on average each day, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.
An eastbound turn lane and signals will be installed at the newly-created Taylor Street on the west end of the development and a median will be installed at Taylor Street and Tyler’s Place Boulevard. In addition, the intersection at Liberty Way and Tyler’s Place Boulevard will get turn lanes and a modified signal.
The construction also will replace an existing median just north of Tyler’s Place Boulevard with a left-turn lane.
All work is by permit issued by the engineer’s officer to the developer’s general contractor, Hoar Construction, according to BCEO spokesman Chris Petrocy.
Construction on the ramps started Wednesday and is expected to be completed by August, according to ODOT. All other construction is expected to be completed by the end of October.
Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens said the improvements are necessary because of a traffic impact study conducted when the developer first presented plans for the development.
“You’re putting 1.2 million square feet of mixed used development, which take a lot of capacity,” Wilkens said. “That’s what’s driving these improvements.”
Wilkens said the changes are meant to not only minimize traffic hassles, but also enhance overall safety.
“The improvements are initially being paid by Liberty Center, but (Liberty Center) will be seeking reimbursement from the township funds in accordance with the bond issuance,” according to Justin Leyda, Steiner + Associates’ senior development executive.
In November, the Butler County Port Authority sold $37 million worth of bonds on behalf of Butler County Commissioners, Liberty Twp. and the Liberty Community Authority.
That funding pays for the center’s infrastructure such as streets, parking, utilities and sewer and water systems, and is part of a Master Development Agreement outlining terms of the project’s tax incentives signed in July 2013 by the township, the county and Steiner + Associates.
Infrastructure improvements to Liberty Way outside the new development started last year, when westbound right turn lanes were added, according to BCEO spokesman Chris Petrocy.
Previous improvements on the roadway are less than a decade old. In 2008, Liberty Way — then known as Hamilton-Mason Road — was widened by the Butler County Transportation Improvement District between I-75 and Butler Warren Road at a cost of $2.6 million. The next year, the road was widened between Cincinnati-Dayton Road and I-75 at a cost of $5.3 million.
Traffic on the road averaged 15,270 vehicles per day in 2008, but fell to 12,330 vehicles per day in 2014.
That drop was the result of the Liberty Way/I-75 interchange being completed in 2010, an infrastructure project that took traffic off of Liberty Way itself, Petrocy said.
Once Liberty Center opens for business, Liberty Way just west of I-75 could see about 25,000 to 30,000 vehicles per day, according to an unofficial estimate, he said.
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