Greene County commissioners on Thursday joined the annual — but so far failing — effort to get a $34.6 million interchange built at U.S. 35 and Trebein-Valley Road, despite doubts it would score the necessary funding, particularly after reduced gas tax revenues due to COVID-19’s chilling effect on driving habits are tallied.
It would be the first full highway interchange in Ohio on westbound U.S. 35, a location seen to promise economic impact from a project also tied to traffic safety.
“How many people have to get killed out there before it becomes a priority?” Commissioner Bob Glaser said during a discussion following approval of a resolution of support to be included in this year’s application. “This thing has just been a football for years.”
Greene County Engineer Stephanie Ann Goff plans to include this and other backing in an application, due to the Ohio Department of Transportation this year on July 15 rather than May 31.
“The congestion and high traffic volume around these crossings make safe transportation of our students difficult,” Paul Otten, superintendent, Beavercreek City Schools, said in a letter bolstering the 2019 application.
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The applications to ODOT, prioritized by the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, result in awards for funding by ODOT's Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC), formed in 1997 to take the politics out of the competition between communities across the state.
While acknowledging “it is absolutely the biggest transportation problem in this county,” Greene County Administrator Brandon Huddleson said the proposed interchange and improvements are less critical than those in other parts of the state.
So far, the election of Gov. Mike DeWine, a Greene County resident, has failed to end the wait for funding, although ODOT is moving forward with a $15 million “superstreet” alternative for the U.S. 35 intersection west between Factory Road and Orchard Lane.
Recently, Beavercreek Mayor Bob Stone said he would rather see the Trebein-Valley interchange.
RELATED: 2 years of work begins on busy U.S. 35 stretch
In 2019, $398 million of $925 million in statewide projects were approved by TRAC for funding from 2020-2023.
It’s too early to gauge how bad a hit will be felt this year due to the tendency of drivers to stay home during the pandemic.
“We just don’t know yet,” Matt Bruning, ODOT press secretary, said. “We really bottomed out in April,” with traffic volumes down almost 50 percent.
Except for the money, the interchange project should be ready for construction later this year, according to Goff.
In addition to safety, the interchange is expected to drive economic development around the Lewis A. Jackson Regional Airport, about a half-mile away.
It is also seen as a key catalyst for development or preservation of more than 600 acres known as the Valley Springs Farms.
Promoters envision homes, a convention center, commerce, entertainment and shopping in a development creating 2,200 to 3,800 jobs and setting aside 252 acres as a nature preserve.
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“The key focus is the TRAC application. We’re anxious to get a full interchange in there,” said Carlo McGinnis, president of the development company.
“We’re ready to go. I think that interchange would be huge.”
Goff was not optimistic.
“The funding for construction has been applied for a couple of times and was unsuccessful in past rounds. We will continue to apply because the interchange is needed,” she said in an email.
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