Suddenly, southern areas of Hamilton are much better connected, following Friday morning’s opening of the $32 million South Hamilton Crossing.
It’s now much quicker to use Grand Boulevard to get from Ohio 4 to the area of Miami University’s Hamilton campus and beyond that, the city’s West Side.
Glenn Schlegel, 70, of Fairfield Twp., who bicycles all around Hamilton alongside his white Siberian husky, Ghost, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony and said he loves the new highway link.
“The best thing about this highway is it being convenient, not having to worry about trains, and it’s so much easier to get around town,” Schlegel said. “To be able to get from this side to that side” without having to stop for trains.
He also noted it’s easier to get to the Great Miami River bike path. “That’ll be a big thing,” he said.
Aside from High Street, Grand Boulevard is the only east-west roadway where stopping for trains is not required.
Four generations of the Jim Blount family, riding in an orange 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, officially were first to cross the Jim Blount overpass that is the key part of the new highway link that allows motorists to avoid stopping for trains on the CSX railroad tracks.
The late Blount, a Hamilton historian and former Journal-News editor, was the leading advocate over the decades for the highway.
“I think this is great for the city,” said Blount’s wife, Jackie Blount, as she sat in the sparkling vintage car, waiting for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Jim would be enjoying this day.”
Before he died Aug. 22, 2017, Blount knew the highway was nearing completion, and the city announced it was dedicating the overpass in his honor.
The highway project was a dream of Hamilton residents for more than 100 years. Construction took 18 months.
City Engineer Rich Engle said the city planned to contact Google, the company that creates Google Maps, “and advise them that there’s a new route here,” so more drivers know about the quicker pathway.
City officials believe South Hamilton Crossing will alleviate heavy congestion on High and Main streets, but do not know how much.
During the period officials gathered to cut a ceremonial ribbon with large scissors, several trains passed below on the CSX railroad tracks.
“I think people should stand on it and look at the view,” said one of Blount’s sisters, Jean Eads of Hamilton. She and Jackie Blount noted the overpass has sidewalks for people to walk across.
Also crossing the bridge in a dark green 1931 Ford Model A were three World War II veterans, Russell Carr; former City Manager Jack Kirsch; and Judge John Moser. They were driven by the vehicle’s owner, Ed Swope, a former city street-department employee.
“I’m sure my father’s looking down on it, and he’s thinking it took a long time to get it,” Swope said about his Dad, Robert Swope, who was born in 1915.
“This is great — it’s been way too long, waiting on this,” said Butch West, 70, of Fairfield, who grew up on Hamilton’s West Side, after he crossed the bridge in a red 1973 Dodge challenger.
The best thing about the new highway span is “the aspect that that train’s going underneath me,” instead of blocking his path and making him wait, West said. “It’s definitely going to help the city, and the region.”
West noted he knew Blount a long time, “and to see this done, and in his memory, is a great thing.”