By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LIBERTY TWP. - A proposed eastward interchange of Interstate 75 at the Michael A. Fox Highway could be in jeopardy, Butler County leaders acknowledged Monday.
Estimated costs have steadily risen since the project was proposed in 2001 - and now county officials are pleading with state and federal authorities not to make the project too expensive by requiring a "free-flow interchange," Commissioner Mike Fox said Monday.
Federal Highway Administration and Ohio Department of Transportation officials want the free flow interchange, which feeds traffic in a continuous stream and does not have traffic signals, Fox said. The existing westbound interchange is free-flow.
The interchange's configuration has a direct impact on the project's cost, originally estimated to be about $8 million, and the capacity to finance it, Fox said.
The Butler County Transportation Improvement District plans to borrow the money to build the interchange, and then pay it back with tax revenues from the expected development around it, he said.
A free-flow configuration would be the most expensive option because it would take up the most land, he said, estimating costs could run as high as $70 million.
"If the configuration chews up a lot of ground that would otherwise be available for development, it takes away the tax base and jobs the project would bring," Fox said.
Specific costs for each of the five proposed configurations for the interchange - and the recommended option - will be unveiled next month.
Residents in the area are worried about the increase in noise, congestion and lights the project would create.
Meanwhile, township leaders are also concerned about the climbing costs.
Rick Bailey, TID executive director, appeared before Liberty Township trustees Monday to receive approval for another $215,693 so consultants on the project can do work required by ODOT.
Specifically, ODOT wants additional analysis that shows the relationship of any proposal for the new interchange with adjacent interchanges as far north as Ohio 63 and one that has been proposed but subsequently abandoned at Greentree Road, he said.
Trustees were concerned Monday about the unexpected expenditure, particularly in light of the debate over the interchange configuration, and tabled the request to further investigate.
The money would come from a tax increment-financing (TIF) district in the interchange area. So far, Liberty officials have approved spending up to $250,000 for preliminary studies of the interchange out of their general fund, and last year, county officials dedicated $338,000 for more studies from of the TIF.
Trustees said they wanted to know how much revenue is expected to be generated from the TIF before they approve using more money from it.
"I don't want it to appear in any way we are losing enthusiasm for the project," Trustee David Kern said. "On the other hand, I would feel more comfortable if we had another meeting."
Also Monday, trustees approved higher standards for development, buffering and beautification between the proposed interchange and expensive homes at Four Bridges and other subdivisions such as Evergreen Estates.
It also prohibits intense development such as hotels, gas stations and fast-food restaurants from directly abutting the homes, which range from $250,000 to $900,000.
"GREAT NEIGHBORHOODS" SERIES
West side guide
West-side meeting tonight
TOP LOCAL STORIES
Study finds gaps in health care
State to go after misspent millions
Portune works from hospital
North Bend peregrines banded
LAURA PULFER COLUMN
Berry Park shows we can do better
6 charged in riot near UC
Donors to have say in arts school
Writer found shot dead in home
Youth shot to death, 2nd hurt
AROUND THE TRISTATE
Airport plans on just 1 terminal
Tristate A.M. Report
Good News: Mayors' Walk slated for Saturday
Obituary: Art became passion for Johanna Hooker
Design a concern on I-75 exchange
Alcohol called factor in fatal crash
Fairfield High principal hired
School getting safer playground
Miami Twp. asks state for storm aid
Chief's arrest has Mason talking
Ohio Moments: Grant begins road to presidency
Ky. officer dies in I-75/71 wreck
Ky. statewide primary today
Man accused of killing wife has court hearing
Maifest draws 100,000 despite rain
Around the Commonwealth