Tuesday, April 10, 2001

Road project endangered

Funding bedevils Ohio 63 plan

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Financial problems might doom the proposed 10-mile extension of Ohio 63 proposed to relieve traffic congestion in the booming Trenton region of Butler County.

        The county had expected to contribute $9 million toward the $79 million project, but last month learned that it would have to pay more than $50 million.

        Design changes and expansion of the project dramatically boosted the cost, officials said. The county also learned its original estimate had been way too low.

        The state has capped its contribution at $27 million.

        “It's going to be very difficult for us to come up with that type of money,” Butler County Commissioner Courtney Combs said Monday.“It's very disappointing.”

        The Ohio 63 extension is a major project that county officials say is needed to serve a growing area in Butler's east-central area, and to spur more industrial and commercial development.

        The extension would begin at Ohio 63 near Salzman Road in Monroe and would end at U.S. 127, north of Seven Mile. Most of the highway would be four lanes, with entrance and exit ramps at interchanges, just like an interstate.

        The communities it would serve include Trenton, Middletown, Monroe, New Miami and Seven Mile, and St. Clair and Lemon townships. The extension also would help Miller Brewing Co. on Wayne-Madison Road near Trenton and other industries in that area.

        “It's a necessary project,” Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens said.

        Mr. Wilkens said one option is to build the highway in stages.

        The commissioners will look at alternative ways of financing the project. Those include a toll bridge over the Great Miami River; tax assessments on businesses that would directly benefit from the project; and a tax zone that would divert property tax revenue from new developments.

        “The project's future is uncertain until we can figure out how we're going to pay for it,” Commissioner Mike Fox said.

        Trenton City Manager Ron Phelps said his city badly needs the Ohio 63 extension to attract commercial and industrial development and ease the tax burden on residents.

        Trenton's population grew from 6,100 in 1990 to 8,700 in 2000.


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