Saturday, August 24, 2002

ODOT defends project's pace

Decision called too slow

By Jennifer Edwards,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LIBERTY TWP. — The director of the state's transportation agency on Friday entered the public debate over an interchange here off Interstate 75 at the Michael A. Fox Highway by firing off a letter to Butler County.

        Gordon Proctor, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation, wrote the three-page letter to Butler County Commissioner Mike Fox and the other two commissioners outlining ODOT's policies and procedures and its status on the proposed Liberty interchange.

        He also chastised Mr. Fox for saying ODOT is slow to do road projects and noted that ODOT will spend more money in Butler County between 1998 and 2005 — $330 million — than in Hamilton, Warren and Clermont counties combined.

        “To portray us as not being a good partner to Butler County is inaccurate and unfair,” he said in the letter.

        Mr. Fox called the letter “a lot of facts to convey a lie.”

        On Sunday, Mr. Fox received a tongue-lashing from Gov. Bob Taft when he and other Butler County leaders talked to the governor about the interchange.

        Mr. Fox said he riled Mr. Taft, a fellow Republican, when he told the governor the best way to move the Liberty project forward was to call Mr. Proctor and tell him to support it.

        “It is an over-simplification to the point of being ridiculous to portray the construction of a new interchange as being a matter of whim for the Governor or the director of transportation,” Mr. Proctor wrote in his letter. “A new or modified interchange requires a major federal decision which requires standard studies to make an informed decision...”

        ODOT wants to hold off approving any I-75 interchanges from I-275 to I-675 in Dayton until a regional study is completed next year.

        Mr. Fox maintains that ODOT can make exceptions to its policies, and has done so in the past.

        Butler County and Liberty township officials want a full interchange off I-75 at the Fox Highway (there is now only a westbound exit) and fear its delay will reduce business development there.

        “That's why God gave us governors,” Mr. Fox said, “to make sure bureaucrats aren't in charge.”


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