In an event Hamilton officials have desired for more than a century, city, county and regional officials will gather Saturday, Nov. 10, at 10 a.m. for a dedication ceremony at the very-long-awaited South Hamilton Crossing highway project.
“We’re having the dedication ceremony on the bridge deck itself,” said city Engineer Rich Engle. The public is invited.
That overpass deck crosses the CSX Transportation railroad tracks and will be officially named for the late Hamilton historian and Journal-News editor, Jim Blount.
“It is going to be the Jim Blount South Hamilton Crossing Overpass,” Engle said.
The roadway itself will not be open afterward, as work continues. Instead, at a later date, officials plan a ribbon-cutting ceremony and roadway opening, likely in December.
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Speakers at the event will include Mayor Pat Moeller, City Manager Joshua Smith, Butler County Transportation Improvement District executive director Dave Spinney, an official from Ohio Department of Transportation District 8, and possibly others.
Spinney said the project will improve Hamilton in several ways:
- It improves vehicle safety at the railroad crossing, because traffic will cross an overpass, rather than driving directly on the railroad tracks.
- It will eliminate delays caused by traffic waiting for trains to pass.
- It should reduce traffic on often-overcrowded traffic on High Street by allowing traffic from the southern end of the city to use the crossing as a shorter alternative.
- It will provide easier access from Ohio 4 and areas east of it to Miami University’s Hamilton campus and existing employers in that area.
- Also, it will make more attractive for development some under-utilized land near the university.
Spinney said Blount “was a real champion of the project,” who was a driving force behind getting the Butler County TID involved and winning regional support that was critical in winning funding.
Spinney said he found a detailed, four-page outline Blount wrote years ago in formulating a public-relations strategy for presenting the project to the city, county, the region and ODOT.
Spinney said it’s unfortunate that Blount passed away before the dedication, but, “he knew that it was accomplished, and he had moved on to trying to do other projects.”
Engle said in a nod to how long the project has been desired, “We’ve made arrangements for a couple of older cars — 1920s vintage, I think — to be parked on the bridge deck as well,”
Here’s how to reach the event.
“Access will be off of University Boulevard, and then onto Grand (Avenue),” Engle said. “We’ll have a police officer stationed at Pleasant Avenue to stop traffic for pedestrians to cross Pleasant.”
Drivers should park along Grand Boulevard, to the west of the bridge.
“We’re going to have a drone flying around, so there’ll be an aerial photo of the event,” Engle said.
“I feel very intimidated by the fact that this project was first talked about in the early 1900s, before 1910, and it’s been attempted to be constructed numerous times over the decades since then, and being able to finally have the dedication and upcoming ribbon-cutting ceremony to complete it is pretty impressive,” Engle said. “Special thanks to the funding agencies that provided significant grant dollars.”
Nearly half the estimated $30 million project was funded through grants, including from the Ohio Department of Transportation’s TRAC program. Among key agencies that worked for the project were The Butler County TID, the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments and state development officials, Engle said, noting money was the obstacle through the decades that repeatedly stalled the project, Engle said.
Engle said a key moment for the project, in about 2015, was when officials pitched the project to ODOT’s TRAC committee, and, “(CEO) Mark Policinski of OKI stood up and said it was the No. 1 project in the region.”