Special report: Rough roads in Butler County

As bad as some roads are in Middletown and Hamilton, both cities will sometimes ignore their own ratings when deciding which streets to repave.

Butler County’s two largest municipalities evaluate the condition of streets using the Pavement Condition Index. The system measures the condition of pavement on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 representing the best possible condition and 0 the worst.

But roads with low PCI ratings aren’t necessarily the first to be repaired.

“It depends,” said Scott Tadych, Middletown’s public works director. Major through roads, he told the Journal-News “would likely get paved ahead of a failed low volume residential street.”

Tadych also pointed out that low volume streets are usually not eligible for state or federal grants.

“We try to leverage grant funds as much as possible,” he said.

In Middletown’s most recent PCI study completed earlier this year, the city’s 219 miles of streets were rated at 55 on the PCI scale. The PCI indicated about 38 percent of Middletown’s streets were rated as poor or worse; 25 percent were rated as fair; and about 38 percent were rated good or better.

In Hamilton, the city maintains 254 miles of roads and tries to perform street inspections for PCI every three to four years.

A PCI rating of Hamilton’s streets done in 2013 revealed that 30 percent were rated good or better, a score from 71 to 100; 20 percent were rated fair scoring 51 to 70 percent; and 50 percent were rated poor or worse scoring 0 to 50 percent.

And just like in Middletown, some streets with very low PCI ratings aren’t always high on the list for repaving, said Richard Engle, Hamilton’s public works director/city engineer.

“Because of the higher volume of traffic traveling on them,” the city focuses resurfacing efforts on main through roads, Engle told the Journal-News.

“The next level of effort is to resurface streets impacted by extensive water, gas and sanitary sewer replacement and repair projects as much as available funding allows,” he said. “Then, the remaining funding is used to resurface neighborhood streets with very low PCI ratings.”

And as local tax dollars become tighter, there usually isn’t much if any funding for such projects.

Engle said the city spends between $2 million to $2.5 million annually for street construction and resurfacing as well as curbs, storm sewer improvements, etc. That amount that will resurface 3 to 3.5 miles of streets, he said.

Three years ago he said the estimate to bring all of Hamilton’s streets and roads to good condition or better rating was about $100 million.

Engle said without the state and federal funding, the “annual resurfacing program would be reduced by about 55 percent.”

Other programs such as the Ohio Public Works Commission grant averages about $1 million while Community Development Block Grant is typically $100,000, he said. Hamilton expects to receive funding in 2017 and 2018 from the Ohio Department of Transportation’s urban paving program.

Over the past four years, Middletown has spent about $2.6 million a year, including grants, according to Tadych. The current estimate to bring all city streets up to a good rating is estimated to cost $162 million over 20 years, he said.

“Over the past four years, state and federal grants account for about half of what was spent on paving,” Tadych said.

Hamilton and Middletown are also taking advantage of various ODOT urban paving programs to get some major thoroughfares rebuilt and/or repaved and making other infrastructure improvements.

These are in addition to other major projects such as the widening and rebuilding of Oxford State Road in Middletown and the newly started South Hamilton Crossing project in Hamilton.

The Butler County Engineer’s Office receives about $12 million annually from its two primary funding sources: taxes on gas and license plate. The BCEO is also able to leverage local dollars to obtain additional matching funds from outside sources from the state.

In its 2016 Capital Improvements Report, BCEO planned to do more than $20.25 million in bridge, road, intersection, culvert and resurfacing and other infrastructure projects. Of that amount, $4.27 million from grant or other outside funding with $15.36 million from local sources such as BCEO, the county, townships, tax increment financing and other private funding making up the balance.

Chris Petrocy, BCEO spokesman said the agency spends $1.5 million to $2 million

In Butler County, a road paving schedule is maintained and is being programmed through 2035. Petrocy said the county is on a 15- to 20-year paving cycle for roads.

Some of the worst county-maintained roads have already been scheduled for resurfacing and other improvements. Those include:

  • State Road, Waynes Trace Road and Hamilton Mason Road between Bypass Ohio 4 east to Ohio 747; and Elk Creek Road from Ohio 122 to West Alexandria Road, which are all are slated for resurfacing in 2017.
  • Princeton Road from Jayfield Drive to Ohio 747; and Cincinnati Dayton Road from West Chester Road to Interstate 75 are both slated for roadway improvement projects slated for 2018.

Petrocy said the county does its own pavement inspection about every two years for its more than 250 miles of road. He said roads are rated from 1 to 4, with 1 being excellent, newer pavement and 4 being poor condition.

“In addition to actual condition, the age factor of the pavement is also considered when evaluating and scheduling resurfacing projects,” he said. Other considerations are for a road’s traffic volume and wear and tear.

Petrocy said 76 percent of county-maintained roads are in good to excellent condition.

About the Author