$32M South Hamilton Crossing project to boost safety, economy

Many in Hamilton thought work would never happen.

Supporters say it will improve safety and help the local economy.

“After more than a century of discussion, planning and re-planning, a very necessary transportation improvement will break ground next month and provide an improved way of life for all Hamiltonians and local businesses,” said City Manager Joshua Smith. “Our second, east-west unfettered connection will make residential access, the movement of business goods and faster response for public safety a much easier proposition.”

The planned project includes improvements on Grand Boulevard starting just west of Twelfth Street. The project includes street and intersection improvements, an overpass over the CSX railroad tracks, a relocated intersection of Grand Boulevard and Pleasant Avenue/U.S. 127, and continuing with the extension of Grand Boulevard with other future intersection improvements before connecting with University Boulevard.

The new road extension and overpass will create a new direct east/west route from Ohio 4 to University Boulevard for residents and businesses. In addition, it will provide a direct route to Miami University Hamilton and the Vora Technology Park, where 1,500 new jobs at the new BarclayCard processing facility will be located, and also open up between 50 to 60 acres of greenfield at the city-owned University Commerce Park for future development.

Richard Engle, Hamilton’s public works director/city engineer, said the groundbreaking for the South Hamilton Crossing (SHX) project is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Aug. 17 at the corner of University Boulevard and Marshall Avenue adjacent to the Lane Library. The project completion date is sometime in 2018.

Also as part of the project, starting at 7 a.m. today, East Avenue between Grand Boulevard and Sipple Avenue in Hamilton will be closed for the next two years as part of the SHX project.

Once completed, it will eliminate several safety issues that has concerned city officials since 1910 that include numerous car/train accidents where two lanes of Central Avenue cross four rail tracks owned by CSX and Norfolk Southern, as well as delaying first responders in emergencies due to train traffic, according to Jim Blount, Butler County Transportation Improvement District chairman and local historian.

City officials have said when the rail crossing is blocked by passing trains, it could mean a detour of about three miles and close to 10 minutes for police, fire and emergency medical services responding to residents and businesses on a busy day.

The rail tracks bisect Hamilton north and south and are mainlines for both railroads. About 60 trains a day come through Hamilton daily and traffic is blocked at that crossing and nine others some 15 percent during the day, officials said. It will also reduce congestion along High Street which has an underpass for vehicles to avoid rail crossings.

Since March, utility relocation work and other preparations have been made. Some prep work has been more than a year in the making.

Engle said the contractor, John R. Jurgensen Co., has already mobilized to begin construction.

“For the next 90 days, contractor will be performing clearing and grubbing, removal of pavement, excavation and embankment, demolition of existing structures, and installation of drainage, underground utilities and electric facilities,” Engle said in an email.

David Spinney, Butler County Transportation Improvement District, said he had not seen the complete construction schedule from the contractor but said he received a briefing Thursday covering the next 30 to 60 days. He said there will be some demolition work, and an underground tank from an old gas station will be removed. In addition, he said there will be work building the embankments on the east and west sides of the tracks as well as bringing in fill for the west side of the project.

“Jurgensen was anxious to get going, and so are we,” Spinney said.

He said once the construction schedule is finalized in the next few weeks, there will be more project information on the city and county websites. In addition, he said residents in the immediate vicinity of the construction project will also be receiving door hangers with more detailed information.

Spinney said he was “relieved as this has been a long time coming.”

Jim Blount, BCTID chairman and local historian, said there were still “a lot of little details to complete.”

He said work is beginning with about eight property acquisitions yet to complete. Blount said the project required the acquisition of nearly 80 properties that ranged from a few feet to entire parcels of land.

“It’s very satisfying to see this happening,” Blount said. “It’s taken a lot of people to get this done…. You know what needs to be done then it’s getting all the small moving pieces together — and they’re still moving.”

Blount, a former Journal-News editor, said he had written stories and columns about the need for the overpass and never thought this project would come to fruition. He said until 1960, the South Hamilton Crossing project was a top priority for the city. However, it was later decided that it made more sense to complete High Street first to the connector (eventually to Interstate 75), he said.

Smith praised the efforts of Blount, Melissa Taylor at ODOT, Vice Mayor Carla Fiehrer and Hamilton City Council in making this project a priority.

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