Warren County government has committed to putting up as much as $10 million toward the widening of a 2 1/2-mile section of Ohio 63.
Last week, county commissioners agreed to the expenditure as part of an application for federal funding of what is estimated to be a $25-million project.
Ohio 63 will be widened from Union Road and the Miami Valley Gaming racino to Ohio 741, near the 4,500-home Union Village development, where the first section is under construction across from the Otterbein retirement community.
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“Established in the early 1800s linking agricultural and industrial centers of that period, it functions today with travel and right-of-way conditions that date mostly from the 1950s,” according to the application for a Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The project would also be used to unveil an infrastructure bank where money could be set aside to help pay for other road projects already creating problems for motorists as growth in the area continues.
Warren County Auditor Matt Nolan said the county was building up cash through year-end balances, some of which could be banked for roads and other infrastructure needed in fast-growing areas of the county.
“We are in a position to do this,” Nolan said. “We need to decide what we are going to do with that money.”
In addition to the Ohio 63 section in the current project, millions more are needed to improve the section leading into Lebanon and other state roads, such as Ohio 48, to handle the heavier traffic coming along with residential and commercial growth, officials said.
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The opening of the Warren County Sports Park at Union Village, this fall or next spring, is also expected to create traffic issues on Ohio 741, Greentree Road and routes leading to the park. All of this development is in Turtlecreek Twp.
The Ohio Department of Transportation lacks the money needed for such projects, county officials said. “We’re going to have to do it as a county,” Nolan said.
Commissioner Dave Young credited Congressman Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, with winning support for the project in Washington, D.C. Chabot could not be reached for comment.
Since 2009, BUILD grants have provided $7.1 billion to 554 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
A letter expressing the county commitment was part of an application for a $12.5 million BUILD grant.
County Engineer Neil Tunison told the commissioners (Commissioner Tom Grossmann was absent) that ODOT agreed to contribute $450,000 budgeted for repaving Ohio 63, providing the BUILD grant was approved.
“So were looking for around $10 million,” Tunison said.
The application says crash totals are too high along Ohio 63 and traffic backs up during rush hours.
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“The project is improvement to an overloaded, safety-compromised highway facility in a high-growth corridor with confirmed plans for major economic development and investment in both rural and urbanized parts of Warren County,” according to the grant application description.
This stretch of Ohio 63 already handles traffic from a Premium Outlets Mall, several strip centers, the racino and a distribution center, as well as other traffic from the nearby Interstate 75 interchange.
The road project is also sought in anticipation of development of 766 acres of state land to be sold around the Warren and Lebanon correctional institutions on Ohio 63.
The application was filed on the July 15 deadline, with letters of support to be added after the July 16 commission meeting, according to Tunison. With approval, construction could begin in September 2021 and the widening could be completed by October 2022.