A $10.6 million plan to widen and improve the crossroads at the center of Springboro includes $4.2 million to buy out and move property owners like Joe Davis.
Davis owns Pro Automotive, a former gas station where he has continued to repair cars, four years after he stopped pumping gas at his business, one of three gas station properties at Ohio 741 and Ohio 73, known as Main Street and Central Avenue in Springboro.
Officials point to increasing traffic congestion as the main reason for the project. During peak traffic, motorists sit at the intersection for two minutes or more, according to traffic counts. It functions at a Level F, the lowest used by traffic engineers, according to officials.
Davis confirmed the traffic problems but said the project will also allow the city, one of Ohio’s most affluent, to clean up its central crossroads.
“They want to get rid of these gas stations. It’s an eyesore,” he said while traffic moved through the intersection.
Davis’ property is one of three “total takes” that officials said would be acquired in the plan, developed by officials from Springboro and the Warren County Transportation Improvement District. These property owners would be eligible for relocation funds, as well as fair market value for the property taken for the project.
“They’re supposed to relocate me,” said Davis, while questioning how a new site could be as well located as where he is currently operating.
The other properties expected to be taken are a Speedway fuel station-convenience store on the southwest corner and a vacant former Shell station.
A sign advertising the city center sits on a piece of city property on the southeast corner.
So far, Springboro has set aside $3.1 million in federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement funds committed by the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission. Actual construction work is expected to cost about $4.6 million.
While hoping to find other outside funding, the city is prepared to spend more than $7 million in city funds to widen the streets, add turn lanes and medians at the crossroads.
“The city will commit to the rest. In addition to that commitment, we will also be trying to identify other funding sources,” Springboro City Manager Chris Thompson said. “My guess would be if we don’t find other funding sources, we will absolutely be going forward with the project. It’s that critical.”
Traffic counts show as many as 26,000 cars a day travel through the intersection. The bottleneck is worsened because a historic district begins just south of the intersection, restricting the widening of that stretch of Main Street beyond two lanes, plus curbside parking.
The city is hoping the transportation district — a key force in completing the $4 million northbound ramp recently opened from Ohio 73 onto I-75 — can help in securing other funding.
On Friday, the transportation district board is expected to approve an agreement with the city to move forward on the project, with construction expected to begin 2017.
“There’s been a decision to advance the project forward,” Dan Corey, the Warren County engineer directing the transportation district, said.
The plan calls for taking three of four corners, including Davis’ parcel and a Speedway fuel station-convenience store on the adjacent corner.
“We are aware of the Springboro project, and we are always evaluating property for future Speedway locations which includes Springboro,” said Stefanie Griffith, communications manager at Speedway. She declined to provide further information on where Speedway could move. Another Speedway station is located about a mile west on Central Avenue.
The county transportation group is committing $250,000 while collecting a 3-percent fee for managing the project, according to the intergovernmental agreement. The design contract was recently increased to $900,000.
The current design, still subject to environmental review, is the product of an extended process during which the city considered turning the intersection into a roundabout.
“It’s always been an intersection that’s had its challenges,” Thompson said. “As time’s gone on, it’s been more and more of a challenge.”
In addition to the corner, the project will require the taking of pieces of other properties leading away from the intersection, including a veterinary hospital, supermarket and church, Corey said. “We have gotten their feedback. We are trying to mitigate some of their thoughts.”
The location of one of the proposed medians could block eastbound motorists from turning into businesses in a strip center just east of Pro Auto, Davis said.
The center’s owner, Paul Music, could not be reached for comment.
The medians, designed to control traffic and provide “refuge islands” for pedestrians, are necessary due to the width of the new intersection, Corey said.
The current design calls for seven eastbound lanes on Main, six on westbound Central and northbound Main, with the existing four remaining through the historic district. Construction is to begin during the first half of 2017, with final work possibly being completed in 2018, Corey said.
Davis said he has been close to selling his property several times before, once to make way for a Walgreens store.
“I’m waiting for it to play out,” he said. “As long as they treat me right, I ain’t got a problem with it.”