A debate about widening U.S. 35 from east Dayton to Interstate 675 included some heated exchanges between local elected leaders about the impact of the project and who should help pay for it.
The discussion happened this week during a Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission meeting.
Dayton and Riverside officials said they strongly support adding another lane to U.S. 35 because the road has a dangerous bottleneck that leads to traffic congestion and auto crashes and motorists from across the region use it for travel.
However, the cities’ lack of funding to contribute to the project has been a major obstacle to its progress for years, officials said.
The Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission proposes to step in and help fund the project using some of the federal money it receives.
“For 30 years this group and the region has not dealt with this project, and I think it’s time,” said Sara Lommatzsch, Riverside City Council member. “It’s our problem but we don’t cause our problem – the region causes our problem.”
But Greene County Commissioner Bob Glaser said it’s a terrible idea to “aim” three lanes of traffic at the two-lane section of U.S. 35 that is west of I-675, especially since that road has multiple traffic lights and already struggles with traffic safety problems.
Beavercreek City Councilwoman Debborah Wallace said Dayton and Riverside should contribute funds to the project like Beavercreek is doing to pay for infrastructure improvements at Orchard Lane and Factory Road.
She said “Beavercreek has put skin in the game,” even though it also faces financial challenges because it has managed its money wisely.
“To turn around and say, ‘They can’t afford it, so we’re going to pay for it,’ sounds a little bit like entitlement to me,” Wallace said.
Dayton City Commissioner Matt Joseph took issue to these comments, saying most of the roadway that needs to be widened is not in the city of Dayton.
“If you went to your citizens and you told them you were going to fund a widening of a road not in your community, you’re going to need a pretty darn good reason to do it,” he said.
Joseph said the city supports the project but its budget has taken far too many hits because of state cuts, the economic crisis and other causes.
This week, Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission board members overwhelming voted in favor of allowing the commission to take part in negotiations with the state about potential ways to fund widening U.S. 35.
The project would add an additional lane in each direction on the inside to the median, said Brian Martin, executive director of the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission.
“As you know, it’s been priority No. 1 for years,” Martin said.
Studies and local stakeholders for years have called for extending U.S. 35’s three lanes from east Dayton, where the road shrinks to two lanes, out to I-675.
Funding has always been the issue, but the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has changed some practices that would limit the project to only the essential construction work, Martin said. That has brought down the price tag of the project to about $14 million from $25 million two years ago.
The Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission this month will meet with ODOT and the state’s Transportation Review Advisory Council about the project.
Commission staff will update the groups of its funding plan and request Tier 1 status for the project and $8.7 million in funds from the council and $2.4 million from ODOT District 7 to pay for it.
The Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission board will decide whether to use $2.9 million in federal funds it receives.
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