Great Miami River bridge project would be huge: What we know about plans

The Butler County commissioners are looking to make a major impact on infrastructure throughout the county in the next several years and a new bridge over the Great Miami River in Hamilton has taken on a higher priority.

The commissioners chatted with County Engineer Greg Wilkens last week and asked that he get preliminary engineering on the project that could cost $50 million. Wilkens said he has had talks with the city of Hamilton about the project.

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“It’s an expensive project, extremely expensive from the standpoint you’re not only crossing the river, to cross the river probably starts at $15 to $20 million,” he said. “Then you’ve got to cross the railroad so you’re staying elevated through Third Street coming over there. It’s an expensive project but it’s a needed project.”

Here are 5 things to know about the proposed bridge:

1. Where the new connection might go.

The bridge would start on the west side of the river in the vicinity of NW Washington Boulevard and a new road could possibly shoot through the county-owned property where Wilkens’ offices are on Ohio 4, over by the county nursing home to Princeton Road, ending near Menards. Plans are very fluid until the engineer commissions preliminary engineering at a cost of about $250,000.

2. Who would foot the bill?

Commissioner Don Dixon said the project will likely cost upwards of $50 million but they can possibly get the state to pick up half the tab, leaving $25 million for the county and city.

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“That’s doable, that puts it in the realm of something we can handle fairly easily taken over a few years,” Dixon said.

3. The project has been on the county thoroughfare plans for 20-plus years, why now?

The city of Hamilton has been working with mega indoor sports complex Spooky Nook employees to create what will be called Spooky Nook Sports at Champion Mill, at the former Champion Paper facility on North B Street. To take advantage of tax credits construction would need to begin in the fall.

City leaders envision the Hamilton complex as a spark for a new entertainment district along Main and High streets.

Officials say a connection over the river there would be optimal and would ease the overloaded bridge at High Street.

4. The extension of Ohio 63 is also on the county’s radar

When talk of the new bridge arose Wilkens also mentioned the extension of Ohio 63 to move traffic through the center of the county and open up development opportunities.

“I think that land around Miller (Brewing) has been brought up nationally in searches as being some of the prime industrial ground in the country,” Wilkens said. “But the qualifier all the time with all those studies is it needs access.”

The engineer said the cost estimate is about $178 million but that price is almost a decade old, for the connector to Wayne Madison Road. The commissioners gave no direction on that job.

5. Where’s the money coming from?

At least on the county’s side of financing a new bridge, the commissioners can use money they have been using to pay down debt. By the year 2020 the commissioners will have erased all general fund debt, something they throw about $10 million at annually. That debt number about a decade ago approached $100 million.

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