Sunday, August 19, 2001

Ohio 63 extension sidelined

For now, commissioners say tax-increase support is too low

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — The wheels haven't fallen off the proposed Ohio 63 extension project yet, but it's been relegated to the slow lane.

        Money concerns have prompted the Butler County commissioners to tell the county engineer's office to put the brakes on preliminary work for this project, which would serve the county's growing east-central Trenton-Monroe area.

        This $96 million project is the largest item on the commissioners' list of projects that could be funded from a half-cent county sales tax increase they're considering.

        But the commissioners are worried about the lack of support for a sales tax increase in communities that would benefit from the ex tension of Ohio 63 from Monroe to north of Seven Mile Avenue.

        “They want the project, but they don't want to pay for it,” Commissioner Mike Fox said. “We have to raise the sales tax to have this project.”

        The engineer's office has been spending about $200,000 a month on engineering and design work for the project.

        The commissioners don't want that to continue.

        “We need to shut that down until we decide what we're going to do,” Mr. Fox said. “We don't want to throw good money after bad.”

        The commissioners have a list of 31 projects costing almost $300 million that might be funded by revenue from a sales tax increase they could enact. The county would pay about $140 million, while leveraging about $160 million in federal and state funds.

        For the Ohio 63 project, the county's funding portion is $27 million, and the state's is $69 million. But the state hasn't committed to this funding. Without this project, the county could get by with a smaller sales tax increase.

        Commissioner Chuck Furmon said the there are too many other worthy county projects on the list.

        The commissioners believe a less expensive alternative to the Ohio 63 project would be to extend Washington Boulevard in Hamilton across the Great Miami River and link it to an extended Ohio 4 bypass and the Michael A. Fox Highway.

        The Butler County Transportation Improvement District is examining the feasibility of that project as part of its study of transportation needs in an area that includes north Hamilton, New Miami and parts of St. Clair and Fairfield townships.


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