Thursday, April 3, 2003

Merchants anxiously await Ohio 747 widening project

By Anna Guido
Enquirer Contributor

Retailers along Ohio 747 in West Chester and Liberty townships can't wait for the congested state highway to be widened.

Some have concerns about the impact construction will have on business. Others say it couldn't be worse.

2003 road repairs in Butler County funded with local, state and federal dollars:
$2.8 million on nine bridge replacements.
$380,000 on 19 culvert replacements
$2.2 million on five intersection improvements
$12.6 million on two roadway improvements
$1.1 million on 12 miles of paving
$3.7 million for miscellaneous projects
The two-year project will begin in 2004.

"People don't want to sit in that congestion, and some are finding alternate routes and driving right by me," said Gary Bill, manager of Beckett Ridge Kroger. "But once it's completed and the congestion is alleviated, I think it will drive sales."

Rush-hour bottlenecks that bring traffic in the area to a standstill are a frequent occurrence. The heavily traveled two-lane state highway will be widened to five lanes from just south of Smith Road to Tylersville Road.

"Right now, traffic backs up a lot," said Ranelle Hedrick, co-owner of Beckett Square Salon. "And if anything happens between Tylersville and Union Centre - a light down or an accident - it's even worse."

For McDonald's, construction of any kind in the area usually means more business, manager Jeanne Re said.

"But when they start working on the highway, it's going to block our usual clientele," Re said. "I think we'll lose our regulars for awhile."

The Butler County Engineer's Office is managing the project, estimated to cost $7 million. Sharing in the cost is the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI), the Ohio Department of Transportation, West Chester Township and private citizens through right-of-way donations.

On the heels of this project, in 2006, the engineer's office will work with the Butler County Transportation Improvement District on widening the next section of Ohio 747 from Tylersville north to the Michael A. Fox Highway.

The TID, which served as a model nationally after it was created to fast-track construction of the Fox Highway, helps to secure funding for and administer road and highway projects in Butler County.

There are also plans to improve and widen the intersection of Ohio 747 and Millikin Road, farther north. Turn lanes and a traffic signal will be added. Estimated cost of this project is $650,000. Funding will come from county, state and federal sources.


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