Saturday, September 14, 2002

Driving on Tylersville Road? Pack a lunch

Many Tristate routes are crowded - and getting worse

By Jennifer Edwards,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — Michelle Gibson lives in Colerain Township but works at Tobacco Discounters in the Big Lots shopping center off Tylersville Road.

        She watches cars stack up daily outside the shop on Tylersville and grits her teeth as she dives into traffic heading home each night. Tylersville, she fears, is becoming just like the most notorious road in Colerain Township.

        “It's just ridiculous out here,” Ms. Gibson recently said from the store. “It's always backed up. To anybody turning left into our plaza off Tylersville, I am sure there are times we have been passed up because of all the traffic. It's just like Colerain Avenue.”

Life in the slow lane: Some of the most congested highways.
        In fact, it's worse, according to the latest Butler County traffic counts and 2001 counts from Ohio Department of Transportation.

        More vehicles pack onto Tylersville Road at Interstate 75 in this fast-growing township between Dayton and Cincinnati — an estimated 53,486 per day in June — than Colerain Avenue in Colerain Township, the state's largest township, at I-275, which saw 46,080 cars daily in 2001.

        Tylersville, the main east-west thoroughfare in the northern portion of West Chester, regularly is packed with cars during rush hours and weekends. Lined with big-box retailers, gas stations, fast-food restaurants and shopping plazas, the road also is a major link for Warren County residents to Interstate 75.

        And traffic gridlock is only going to get worse, as Tylersville takes its place among Tristate traffic quagmires like Colerain, Beechmont Avenue and Fields Ertel Road.

        County engineers say the number of vehicles on Tylersville is expected to jump 40 percent over the next several years as more people move into this suburb and a barrage of commercial development rises off Tylersville along Cox Road.

        A $100 million medical campus on Cox just north of Tylersville opened last week, and a 500,000-square-foot shopping plaza anchored by Target is planned to open next spring.

        “It's just like a giant ant colony over there with all the cars and people,” West Chester resident Barbara Lutz said. “When you think about all the shopping they are putting in over there, I truly can't picture how busy it's going to be and how the road will handle it all.”

        West Chester Trustee Catherine Stoker said she isn't surprised Tylersville carries more cars than Colerain Avenue. She lives near Tylersville and travels — rather, inches along on it — every day.

        “We are kind of a victim of our own success in that area,” Ms. Stoker said. “We are eventually going to have to sit down and figure out ways relieve that stress.”

        But there aren't many options, West Chester leaders and traffic engineers concede. It will cost too much in right-of-way acquisition to widen the road beyond its current five lanes from Cox Road to the Wal-Mart west of I-75 — where it is the most congested, trustees say.

        The only potential major relief on the horizon — a proposed interchange off I-75 at the Fox highway and an extended Cox Road in Liberty Township — wouldn't be built for at least two or three years.

        In the meantime, trustees and police keep asking the Butler County Engineer's Office to reconfigure one light along Tylersville — at Kingsgate Way — to allow more cars to pass along on Tylersville toward and away from the interstate.

        But cameras to study that option won't be installed in the area for six months to a year as the county waits for the cameras to arrive, Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens said.

        And even if the light stays green longer on Tylersville, traffic will just back up on side streets like Kingsgate Way, he noted.

        “That's the problem,” Mr. Wilkens said.

        “Even if you give preference to Tylersville, you're doing it at the expense of another road.”

        The western portion of Tylersville past I-75 will be widened from two lanes to three from Wetherington Drive to Cincinnati-Dayton Road and then nearly down to Ohio 747 at Running Deer Drive in 2005.

        Widening the road in a one-mile stretch across the interstate between Wal-Mart and the Kohl's department store is the best way to relieve pressure there, too, Mr. Wilkens said.

        But it is not realistic — it would cost at least $6 million in construction and right-of-way acquisition, he said, and there's no money in the county budget for it.

        “There is a cost for prosperity,” Mr. Wilkens said. “For all the prosperity West Chester has, very little reflects back into our budgets. We are not funded by sales tax revenues and real estate. We are funded with license plate fees and gasoline tax.”

        According to a traffic study the Butler County Engineer's Office did in June, 53,486 vehicles travel Tylersville Road daily at I-75. An estimated 31,000 cars travel west on Tylersville from Cox to I-75, and 25,000 cars are estimated going east on Tylersville at Cox, county engineers say.

        About 33,000 vehicles now use the intersection of Tylersville and Cox road but that count is expected to rise with the coming development along Cox by 15 percent at the intersection and by 40 percent over the next 20 years along Tylersville.

        By comparison, Colerain Avenue (U.S. 27) at I-275 near the Northgate Mall held an average of 46,080 vehicles a day in 2001, according to ODOT.

        Development-packed Fields Ertel Road in Deerfield Township east off I-71 — a traffic headache for years — carried 38,809 vehicles a day in 2000, according to the Warren County Engineer's Office. Mason-Montgomery Road, which flows into Fields Ertel, carries 40,000 vehicles a day, a traffic count conducted in May showed.

        Even Beechmont Avenue (Ohio 125) at I-275 sees fewer cars than Tylersville at I-75, with an average of 40,750 in 2001, according to ODOT.

        Ohio 32 at I-275 sees the most — 64,610 vehicles a day, according to ODOT.

        One of Northern Kentucky's stickiest gridlock points is at I-75 and Turfway Road near Turfway Park. Florence Mall and other shopping destinations fight for the green light there. At I-75 on Turfway Road, 28,000 cars traveled the road per day in 2001, according to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

        In Taylor Mill, Kentucky 16 off I-275 is another clogged artery with 26,600 cars traveling south between I-275 and Old Taylor Mill Road toward the fast-growing suburbs of Taylor Mill and Independence. Another 30,200 cars travel north on Kentucky 16 toward Latonia at I-275, according to KYTC.

        To make way for all the new development in West Chester, Cox Road is being widened from two to five lanes between Tylersville and Hamilton-Mason Road. Cox recently reopened at Tylersville after being closed there since April. Motorists had used Hamilton-Mason Road as a detour, but now the end of Cox closer to Hamilton-Mason is shut down until the construction project is complete.

        Meanwhile, motorists on Tylersville Road and those pulling west onto Tylersville from Cox at peak times often can be seen stopped in the intersection trying to make the light, blocking cars from pulling out of Cox Road, sometimes through two light cycles.

        West Chester police called county engineers again this week to press for the light reconfiguration. The police department doesn't have the staffing to monitor the troubled Tylersville Road and especially the Cox intersection any more than they already do, said West Chester Police Traffic Sgt. Barry Walker.

        Ten percent of all car crashes in the township occur on Tylersville. West Chester overall is the scene of about 1,800 crashes a year, police records show.

        Accident numbers haven't jumped on Tylersville in recent months with the construction shifts from Cox, Sgt. Walker said. But Tylersville's gridlock makes the road a constant complaint from residents to police.

        “There's just too much traffic there, and the problem is we have everyone trying to get from Warren County over to I-75,” Sgt. Walker said. “That's where most of the traffic comes from. It's illegal to block an intersection but it's illegal to do a lot of things. We just try to keep up on it.”


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