Tricky Butler County intersection to be improved; work expected to take 3 months

Credit: NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

A months-long construction project to upgrade the intersection of Hamilton Mason and Mauds Hughes roads is set to begin soon on the border between Liberty and West Chester townships.

Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens has been using the safer roundabout option to upgrade intersections for years but it won’t work here because of the nearby railroad overpass commonly referred to as a “mousehole.”

The $2 million project is set to get under way July 12 and last until Oct. 30. It entails putting a new traffic light at the narrow railroad underpass just east of the project, another at the intersection itself, adding left-turn lanes and realigning the intersection.

Wilkens said traffic signals will be two-phased, traffic going north and south can run at the same time but east and west will run one at a time “people get jammed up because of the mousehole, so it’s not going to be the most efficient intersection.”

Both roads will be closed throughout the project and Wilkens’ office is setting up the following detours:

Hamilton Mason Road Detour: Eastbound Hamilton Mason Road traffic will detour south on Ohio 747, east on Tylersville Road, and north on Cincinnati Dayton Road. Westbound traffic will reverse this route.

Mauds Hughes Road Detour: Northbound Mauds Hughes Road traffic will detour northeast on Cincinnati Dayton Road and west on Princeton Road. Southbound traffic will reverse this route.

West Chester Twp. Trustee Mark Welch said residents should be glad Wilkens is addressing the problem intersection.

“Obviously the preference is always a roundabout here in Butler County but given that location and the complexity of it obviously the next best thing is a traffic signal,” Welch said. “It’s one of those inconveniences folks are going to have to live with until it’s done. But when it’s all done it will be a better, safer intersection.”

The “mousehole” is at the center of Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds’ criminal charges because he stands accused of trying to pressure county and township officials, to use $1.1 million in TIF money to improve Hamilton Mason Road so his dad’s property can be sold for a senior living development.

Wilkens said the area at issue in Reynolds’ case is not part of this project, it is to the east of the mousehole.

The Journal-News ran a picture of the mousehole in an article about Reynolds’ legal trouble and Commissioner T.C. Rogers said recently the overpass appears to be leaning and “at what degrees does it fall down.” He noted he travels under it frequently and “I’ll admit when I drive under I drive fast.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Wilkens said they monitor it frequently and it has been “static” so far and not in danger of toppling over yet. In order to fix it they need cooperation from the Norfolk & Southern Railroad which is extremely difficult.

The project was awarded some time ago so the price wasn’t impacted too greatly by present inflationary woes. Wilkens is spending about $54 million on various intersection, bridge, paving and other projects this year. About $38 million is slated for new projects and about $16 million worth of work is still to come on the massive Liberty Way interchange project.

The most expensive project on Wilkens’ list is the $32 million Liberty Way interchange at Interstate 75, that also includes two new roundabouts in the Veterans Boulevard extension. Construction started last year and Wilkens said the project has been delayed a bit but will hopefully still be completed by November.

Explore$54M in road projects planned for Butler County; Engineer concerned with rising costs

“We’re starting to pour the bridge over the northbound ramp so we’re moving through that,” he said. “It’s a complex bridge, hopefully we can get it back on track, on schedule, it’s a little behind schedule right now.”

The largest intersection project is Five Points that straddles the border of Hamilton and Fairfield Twp., and is a crossroads where Hancock Avenue, Grand Boulevard, Tylersville Road, Hamilton-Mason Road and Tuley Road meet. This is the first roundabout in the county with five access points.

“We’re moving along on Five Points, most of the underground is in which is a good move because that’s where we end up running into utilities and delays and complications, we’re about through all that phase,” Wilkens said. “We’re putting curb in so it’ll be moving along quicker.”

That $22 million project is slated for completion by the end of July.

Wilkens said all of the major projects are underway but there are smaller jobs pending. He said officials are trying to determine if they can use American Rescue Plan Act funds to help pay for projects that are substantially higher due to exploding inflation.

“It becomes difficult for the townships they don’t have that kind of money sitting around in their budgets,” Wilkens said. “So they’re leaning on the ARPA funds and that’s got its own set of complexities, how you let the contracts which everyone is trying to figure out, because it’s new and the rules aren’t as clear as one would hope they’d be.”

Wilkens said especially with the detours around projects like Hamilton Mason Road, drivers should check his website, as well as Facebook and Twitter @bceonews, for possible date and status changes concerning closures/advisories.

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