The Middletown Journal's
position that the State Route 63 Extension is a critical undertaking
is one with which I fully agree. This is a very important project
to Butler County. Therefore, I believe it is necessary to respond
with accurate information to the Middletown Journal's recent
editorial Ohio 63 Extension Too Important To Drop. Reports
of the project being "on-again, off-again" are incorrect
and have clouded the real issues, resulting in confusion among
the public. Inaccurate editorials however well intended can sometimes
hurt a project rather than help it.
Let me emphatically
state that I am not attempting to "kill this project"
as suggested by the editorial. With backing from the Trenton
Area Access Committee (TAAC), the Ohio Department of Transportation
(ODOT), and help from many dedicated citizens, I have worked
hard to move the proposed State Route 63 Extension forward. This
is an ambitious pursuit for which there has been overwhelmingly
positive support. The County Engineer's Office strongly advocates
the project and appreciates the encouragement of those who also
believe it is a necessary and worthwhile investment in Butler
Early studies considered
every possible alignment within the S.R. 63 study corridor, including
one through the LeSourdsville subdivision. This is not unusual
for the initial stage of all major projects. It is through subsequent
detailed studies and public involvement that we determined the
infeasibility of displacing the entire neighborhood -- a task
that is not as simple as the Journal's editorial would have its
readers believe. Moreover, as a result of our successful citizen
input process local residents had the opportunity to express
that relocation was not their desire.
An alignment north
of the LeSourdsville area was presented as the preferred alternative
at a December 2000 public meeting, before I took office. This
was simply another step in refining the alignment and is not
what drove the cost estimate up. The original projection of $47
million to construct the S.R. 63 Extension was based on very
early data and did not yet include any public input. In the road
building business the most feasible plan is not necessarily the
one with which you first begin. There are many factors that once
studied can contribute to cost differences in a project's development
-- public input, design and engineering factors, access and interchanges,
number of lanes, field studies, environmental impact minimization,
wetlands, and stream crossings. The process we've gone through
considers all of these factors when shaping the best plan. Details
involving these important issues were not fully developed when
the original estimate was generated. The new cost figure was
developed in response to local feedback from citizens and businesses
to keep this important project alive.
in a letter dated August 17, 2001, ordered that preliminary engineering
be halted on the project due to funding concerns. This letter
managed to find its way to the media before it arrived at my
office, thus precluding any efforts to clear up the Commissioners'
misunderstanding of the monthly engineering costs. To make matters
worse, the reporter from the Middletown Journal did not contact
me for comment or clarification on any of the issues raised in
the letter. It is important to understand that funding for the
project's engineering has been coming out of the Engineer's budget,
not the Commissioner's. The average monthly cost has been $60,000
a month, not the erroneously reported $200,000 figure that has
needlessly cast doubt and confusion on the project's status.
If I was "trying to kill the project" as suggested
by the Middletown Journal, I could have very easily stopped issuing
checks for work associated with the project. Instead, with quiet
resolve, my staff and I have worked countless hours on planning,
engineering, and interacting with concerned citizens.
and preliminary engineering are critical steps in the road building
process, yet adequate funding is ultimately the key to construction.
This year we intend to seek additional federal funds made available
through the ODOT's Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC).
The State has assured us that the $27 million grant for the S.R.
63 endeavor is in tact. We are now looking at a plan to apply
this to the western segment first because it addresses the most
severe safety problems. The western portion refers to the section
from Wayne Madison Road to U.S. 127, not all the way to Oxford
as frequently misreported. Transportation issues in northwest
Butler County are part of a separate study.
The Butler County Engineer's
Office worked in conjunction with ODOT to apply the process of
Value Engineering to the State Route 63 Extension this year in
an effort to make it economically feasible for the State's TRAC
committee. This process did not effect the alignment but may
have some impact on the highway's access points. I remain confident
that Butler County will be in a very competitive position to
secure TRAC dollars provided the Commissioners can fund the purchases
of right-of-way and construction match money for the eastern
As your new County
Engineer, I am committed to the safety of our citizens while
supporting the continued growth of Butler County's strong local
economy. The S.R. 63 Extension makes sense and we will support
its most feasible location while being sensitive to the surrounding
environment. We have worked very hard to ensure that the final
preferred alignment meets with as much local approval as possible
and are dedicated to doing what's best for the County as a whole.
We have put together what I believe is a solid plan for implementing
this critical project. ODOT has been a valuable and constructive
partner in the process as have our local citizens and agencies.
Fortunately, Butler County has a strong recent history of regional
cooperation and innovation for transportation planning, financing,
and construction. I believe that this pro-active approach will
continue to yield major results for us in the future.