Tuesday, August 28, 2001

Ohio 63 extension restarted

Project cost is within engineer's budget

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — The Butler County commissioners withdrew on Mondaytheir recent order for the county engineer's office to halt preliminary work on the Ohio 63 extension project.

        The commissioners had been told the engineer was spending $200,000 a month on design and engineering work for the highway extension. They didn't want to have to allocate more money to the engineer's office for a project that might not materialize because of a lack of funding.

        But Commissioner Chuck Furmon said he discovered that the preliminary design and engineering work is about $63,000 a month.

        That's within County Engineer Greg Wilkens' budget and will require no additional money from the commissioners, he said.

        “I feel it's an important project, and we want to make sure the work contin ues,” Mr. Furmon said. “We want to see this project built.”

        The commissioners said inaccurate information from the engineer's office led them to believe the preliminary work cost $200,000 a month.

        But their decision to continue the highway's design and engineering work doesn't remove the uncertainty about the project's future.

        Butler is prepared to fund no more than $27 million, and is hoping the Ohio Department of Transportation will provide the remaining $69 million.

        But the commissioners said they have heard conflicting reports about whether the state will commit to more than $27 million for the project.

        “It's an important project for the county, but we have to have the means to pay for it,” Commissioner Mike Fox said.

        The $96 million extension would begin at Ohio 63 near Salzman Road in Monroe and would end at U.S. 127, north of Seven Mile. It would relieve traffic congestion in the growing Trenton-Monroe area and would help the Miller Brewing Co. facility near Trenton and other industries.

        The commissioners want to increase the county sales tax by a half-cent to pay Butler's $27 million share for the Ohio 63 extension and to finance a long list of other projects.

        Mr. Fox said he is upset that the communities that would most benefit from the Ohio 63 extension — such as Trenton, Monroe, New Miami, Seven Mile and St. Clair and Lemon townships — have not supported the sales tax increase and have not offered any financial assistance.

        The commissioners plan to meet with Mr. Wilkens in the near future to review all aspects of this project.

        If the state provides $27 million instead of $69 million for the highway extension, Butler might build only half of the highway extension and hold off on the other half until more money became available.


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