Thursday, November 16, 2000

Officials laud Cox-Fox-I-75 link


Butler officials see it as business building tool

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

       

        LIBERTY TOWNSHIP — The pathways to business development in this largely bedroom community in southeast Butler County could depend on two new road projects.

        “It's a very exciting possibility for our township,” said township Administrator Nell Kilpatrick. “It would give us a main artery to feed commercial growth in the area.”

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        Liberty Township's population has boomed since 1990 when 9,249 called the community home. Population estimates now exceed 27,000 but the township lacks any substantial commercial development, said Ms. Kilpatrick.

        “Historically we have been a bedroom community; but as our population grows, it creates additional burdens on the Lakota school system and our residents' tax bills,” she said, Additional commercial development is needed to more evenly distribute the township's tax burden, she added.

        “We want to remain a viable community. We are extremely well situated for retail and commercial development in that area where we can pull from nearby communities to the north and south via both the Fox Highway and I-75,” Ms. Kilpatrick said.

        Liberty Township and transportation officials are discussing plans to extend the Michael A. Fox Highway east to connect with a new section of Cox Road in the southeastern corner of the township.

        The highway, which opened in December 1999 and is the newest in the Tristate, connects Hamilton to Interstate 75 and ends at I-75. But under plans by the Butler County Transportation Improvement District, county commissioners and Liberty Township officials, Cox Road would be extended north from Hamilton Mason Road to Millikin Road.

        As part of the extension, Cox also would be connected to the Fox Highway, creating a short drive to I-75 and linking more than 600 acres of commercially zoned property that Liberty Township officials have designated as their community's commercial center of the future.

        Butler County Commissioner Michael Fox, for whom the road is named, described the proposed roadway and interchange as the county's “next great opportunity” to promote development along the east/central region of the county.

        Mr. Fox said converting the current half-interchange where the highway and I-75 meet to a full interchange linked to an extended Cox Road is “very doable.”

        Liberty Township officials began talks to extend Cox Road north to Millikin Road last year. The preliminary estimate at that time was $10 million to build the roadway, which would parallel I-75 and would be zoned on its western side for light industrial development and for commercial and office on the east.

        But TID Executive Director Greg Wilkens said it is too early for estimating the cost of building the Fox Highway/Cox Road interchange.

        “We have to do an interchange justification study, which takes about two years. If ODOT (Ohio Department of Transportation) signs off on that, then we have to do an environmental impact study, which includes public hearings and could take a year or longer,” Mr. Wilkens said.

        “It's a lengthy process,” but there is a “good probability” the two projects will happen, he said.

        Ms. Kilpatrick said that besides providing much needed expansion of Liberty Township's commercial tax base, the new highway interchange also would ease traffic congestion where Cox meets heavily traveled Tylersville Road in adjacent West Chester Township.

        “It would be mutually beneficial to both Liberty and West Chester townships,” she said.

        She also said that a new interchange would mimic in Liberty some of the strong commercial development that has sprung up around West Chester's Union Centre Boulevard/I-75 interchange since it opened in 1997.

        Last week West Chester landed another major corporation at Union Centre when officials from Liz Claiborne Inc. announced they would build a $55 million warehouse there that would create about 300 jobs. The interchange has already attracted numerous restaurants, a Marriott Hotel and dozens of new companies.

       



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