$1.8M to fix Austin Boulevard mess

Easing traffic jams at Austin-Ohio 741

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For more than a decade, the Dayton Daily News has been covering the Austin Boulevard interchange. Reporters have tracked the plans and construction through meetings and public records requests from state and local governments, interviews with residents and traffic officials, and personal observations.We will continue to track new plans and press officials for answers to readers’ questions about the costs and traffic problems.

Just three years after opening the new I-75 interchange at Austin Boulevard, the state has agreed to spend $1.8 million for improvements to relieve rush-hour traffic jams near the highway exit.

But commuters stuck in the traffic snarls at Ohio 741 and Austin Boulevard will have to wait until October 2017 when the project is expected to be completed, according to plans released by the Ohio Department of Transportation.

After studying a full, four-pronged continuous flow design as part of the original road network around the interchange, the state opted against it during initial planning. This saved $3 million and preserved more land for development in the original construction, completed in December 2010.

“Predicting traffic moves is not an exact science,” ODOT District 7 Safety Engineer Craig Eley said in an email. “Since the interchange opened it has shown a much greater a.m. and p.m. movement to and from Springboro than originally projected. Due to the growth in development and the current increased traffic volumes in that area, the new design will allow more traffic to move through the intersection more efficiently and with less delay.”

Shortly after the interchange opened, the state began considering improvements around the intersection and heading south into Springboro on Ohio 741/Springboro Pike.

During peak periods, traffic counts were already close to those projected in 2035. Drivers — particularly those heading out of Springboro in the morning and back into the city after work — complained of lengthy waits.

In March 2013, officials projected a contractor would be selected to improve the intersection between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015, but funding was still uncertain.

Last week, ODOT officials said they had identified available funding, had tentative plans to select a contractor for the project on Oct. 1, 2016, and projected completion about a year later. The project will be paid for with state and federal safety funds, according to ODOT.

“This is actually an extremely aggressive timeline and short compared to most. There are a lot of priorities statewide and our engineers did a lot of hard work to get the funding for this project,” Eley said in email.

The latest ultimate conceptual design shows a continuous turn lane from Austin eastbound onto 741 and improvements on 741 northbound up to Austin.

The design also shows a traffic light on 741, north of a light already planned at South Tech Boulevard. The light is located at an intersection leading east into the Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport and then to new $16.5 million Connor Group on the southeast corner of Ohio 741 and Austin Boulevard. The design also calls for access, heading west, onto 59 acres that RG Properties plans to develop in Springboro, across Austin from the existing Austin Landing development.

“It certainly should be a good thing. It will save people time,” said Donald Marks, a Springboro resident who lives near the interchange.

Springboro Councilwoman Lori Kerschner said traffic problems are currently minimal, but the improvements would come in handy as traffic worsens.

“There’s a lot more development that’s going to go there,” Kerschner, representing the 1st Ward, said. “I think they’re smart to plan ahead.”

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