7/13/17 Journal news article
Two titans of Hamilton transportation attended Hamilton’s City Council meeting Wednesday, and one was there to make sure the other received his due praise.
City Council members issued a proclamation and approved a resolution that named a century-in-the-making new highway segment as the “Jim Blount South Hamilton Crossing” in honor of Blount, a historian who focused on transportation issues, his city’s lore and also worked hard to advance Butler County’s traffic situations through the years.
The South Hamilton Crossing project has been called for, on and off, since at least 1911, according to Blount, a former Journal-News editor. Its largest benefits will be a much better connection between Ohio 4 and the area around Miami University Hamilton, as well as the city’s West Side.
For all those years, traffic has been snagged and delayed by trains that the overpass will pass over.
Also attending Wednesday’s meeting was Bernard J. “Jack” Kirsch, who served as Hamilton City Manager from 1975-83, and had another important rail solution named for him. That was the Jack Kirsch railroad underpass just east of High Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, that lets cars, trucks and emergency vehicles pass below the railroad tracks with speed and efficiency. Kirsch’s underpass comes complete with pumps that remove water from the highway during heavy rains.
The city’s proclamation praised Blount for many accomplishments, including the South Hamilton Crossing itself; his advocacy for an Alexander Hamilton statue along High Street; the low-level dam south of the downtown; most of the city’s historical markers; his being named Hamilton Citizen of the Year for 2005 and Hamilton City Schools Teacher of the Year for 1991-92.
Kirsch called Blount “a force in the city for over 50 years,” with other accomplishments, such as construction of the Columbia Bridge over the Great Miami River, creation of the Hamilton Economic Development Corporation, and even the Jack Kirsch Underpass, which Kirsch said received a lot of written Blount support through the years. His writing also supported the Greenup Hydroelectric Plant on the Ohio River, which last year was joined by the Meldahl Hydroelectric Plant.
Blount said he focused on transportation issues because he believed the advice he received that successful places tended to have excellent transportation. He focused on local history — rather than state or national — because a history professor told him lots of people wanted to write about states or the nation, and local history tended to not been as well-done.
Blount, who holds history degrees from the University of Cincinnati (bachelor’s, 1958) and Miami University (master’s, 1964), helped push for the Ohio 129 extension connecting I-75 with Hamilton and the South Hamilton Crossing itself as volunteer chairman for 16 years of the Butler County Transportation Improvement District (and member since 1994), he helped make the project happen.
Blount was praised by several city officials, who also called him their friend.
5/3/17 Journal news article
South Hamilton Crossing construction ahead of schedule
The South Hamilton Crossing project, which city leaders hope will improve traffic flow between Ohio 4, the Miami University Hamilton campus and Hamilton’s west side, is ahead of schedule.
It’s so ahead of schedule at this point, it is possible the roadway could be open by the end of this year, rather than the official target date of December 2018. On the other hand, local officials probably will wait until the project is completely finished next spring before the roadway opens for traffic.
If the project were to open this year, with just the base layer of asphalt, it probably would have to be shut down again in early 2018 to lay down the top layer of asphalt and make other finishing touches, said David Spinney, executive director of the Butler County Transportation Improvement District, which is managing the long-sought highway project.
“To be perfectly honest, the original construction schedule gave the contractor a lot of latitude, because we didn’t know exactly when we were going to get started in the middle of the construction season,” Spinney said. “So the actual contract completion date is December of 2018.”
“Just to give you an idea where we are, that called for the actual steel fabrication to be done next spring,” Spinney said. “It’s being done now…. We’re looking to have the majority of work done by the end of the year (2017), if the weather cooperates.”
Even if the weather is good and that happens, “there’ll be some additional work to be done next year, such as the final course of asphalt and some concrete work. But the majority of the work we hope to have completed by the beginning of winter.”
Might people be driving on it then? “That’s a decision we’ll have to make,” Spinney said. “We’re hoping to have most of the asphalt work done this year, and then the final top course next year. So I’m reluctant to say we will or we won’t have it open for traffic. Because one of the issues is if we open it up to traffic, we’ll have to close it again to do the work. So I’ll have to sit down and talk with the contractor, see where we are in November, and talk with the city, to see how we want to approach it.”
Hamilton Public Works Director Rich Engle, for his part, doesn’t consider it a good idea to open the new roadway, only to close it again.
“If we have to close it again, I don’t think I would open it to begin with,” said Engle, who noted many months are left before the work is finished: “Who knows what’s going to happen over the next nine months?”
“We were hopeful that it would open earlier than December of 2018, that’s for sure,” Engle said. If only a base of asphalt has been laid down, “I don’t think I’d put traffic on it, at that point. I’d wait until it’s all finished.”
The project’s construction will total about $18 million, but property purchases, roadway design and other costs put total price tag for South Hamilton Crossing in the upper-$20 millions, Spinney said.
"The contractor’s doing well, even though we’ve had all this rain,” Spinney said. “The significant amount of embankment work is proceeding quite well, and the utility work is moving along quite well, so we’re happy with that.”
It’s helpful that most of the utilities — water, sewers, storm-water, gas and electric — involves city-of-Hamilton operations, although Cincinnati Bell fiber optics also are involved.
“The sooner the better, obviously,” Engle said.
“It provides a second grade separation (underpass or overpass) over the CSX (railroad) tracks, which will make a significant difference,” Spinney said. “Right now, people tend to head up to High Street because they know they can get through (without being delayed by a train), but High Street becomes really congested, and this will provide a second access.”
Spinney added: “It also will extend Grand Boulevard all the way to University (Boulevard), so it really opens that whole are up near University for more development, provides a better access to (Vora Technology Park at 101 Knightsbridge Drive), as well as the (Miami) university campus.”
There’s some debate over how much the new highway will have on High Street traffic, Engle said: “I think it’ll have some. There’s varying opinions on how much, but especially now, with the at-grade crossing closed at South Hamilton Crossing.”
Engle noted traffic to and from the city’s West Side will be able to use the Columbia Bridge, which connects Pershing Avenue with B Street and New London Road, and use South Hamilton Crossing to reach Ohio 4 and the Ohio 4 Bypass, avoiding High Street.
8/17/16 Journal news article
Hamilton project to improve safety, reduce traffic, open development
HAMILTON — Heavy rains would not stop a ground breaking for a project some joke has been 100 years in the making.
A symbolic groundbreaking was held Wednesday for the South Hamilton Crossing project, a $32 million overpass project expected to improve public safety, reduce traffic congestion on High Street and increase future economic development in a key area of the city that includes Miami University Hamilton and Vora Technology Park.
More than 100 people gathered indoors at Miami Hamilton’s Parrish Auditorium due to inclement weather to see officials turn a shovel full of dirt gathered on the stage in the symbolic gesture. Work on the project began a few months months ago with relocating utility lines and construction preparation.
Jim Blount, chairman of the Butler County Transportation Improvement District and local historian, said there have been 10 previous attempts since the 1890s to address and resolve this key infrastructure issue that has previously stalled due to economic depressions, recessions, the 1913 flood, World Wars and missed opportunities for federal funds among others.
Blount, who has long championed the need for an overpass over the four sets of railroad tracks, said construction is underway because of cooperative effort among local, regional and state partners.
“I never thought I would see it happen,” he said. “I’m certainly glad to see it happen. It’s taken a lot of people and it’s taken a lot of effort.”
Fifty-six trains come through the railroad tracks that bisect the city, with the crossing blocked more than 15 percent of the time, according to the city.
Vice Mayor Carla Fiehrer said the project will change the landscape and possibilities for the city’s 63,000 residents.
“The benefit for the city of Hamilton is immeasurable,” she said. “The possibilities are endless of what we can do out here. This is huge.”
Once completed in 2018, a new road extension and overpass will create a direct east/west route from Ohio 4 to University Boulevard.
It will provide a direct route to Miami University Hamilton and the Vora Technology Park, where 1,500 new jobs at the new BarclayCard processing facility will be located, and also open up between 50 to 60 acres of greenfield at the city-owned University Commerce Park for future development.
Officials also hope the new overpass eliminates safety issues such as car/train accidents where two lanes of Central Avenue cross four rail tracks owned by CSX and Norfolk Southern, as well as delaying first responders in emergencies due to traffic back-ups when trains are crossing.
7/25/16 Journal news article
$32M South Hamilton Crossing project to boost safety, economy
After more than a century of talking about the need for an overpass over South Hamilton Crossing, the long-awaited $32 million overpass project will break ground next month.
Supporters say it will improve safety and help the local economy.
“After more than a century of discussion, planning and re-planning, a very necessary transportation improvement will break ground next month and provide an improved way of life for all Hamiltonians and local businesses,” said City Manager Joshua Smith. “Our second, east-west unfettered connection will make residential access, the movement of business goods and faster response for public safety a much easier proposition.”
The planned project includes improvements on Grand Boulevard starting just west of Twelfth Street. The project includes street and intersection improvements, an overpass over the CSX railroad tracks, a relocated intersection of Grand Boulevard and Pleasant Avenue/U.S. 127, and continuing with the extension of Grand Boulevard with other future intersection improvements before connecting with University Boulevard.
The new road extension and overpass will create a new direct east/west route from Ohio 4 to University Boulevard for residents and businesses. In addition, it will provide a direct route to Miami University Hamilton and the Vora Technology Park, where 1,500 new jobs at the new BarclayCard processing facility will be located, and also open up between 50 to 60 acres of greenfield at the city-owned University Commerce Park for future development.
Richard Engle, Hamilton’s public works director/city engineer, said the groundbreaking for the South Hamilton Crossing (SHX) project is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Aug. 17 at the corner of University Boulevard and Marshall Avenue adjacent to the Lane Library. The project completion date is sometime in 2018.
Also as part of the project, starting at 7 a.m. today, East Avenue between Grand Boulevard and Sipple Avenue in Hamilton will be closed for the next two years as part of the SHX project.
Once completed, it will eliminate several safety issues that has concerned city officials since 1910 that include numerous car/train accidents where two lanes of Central Avenue cross four rail tracks owned by CSX and Norfolk Southern, as well as delaying first responders in emergencies due to train traffic, according to Jim Blount, Butler County Transportation Improvement District chairman and local historian.
City officials have said when the rail crossing is blocked by passing trains, it could mean a detour of about three miles and close to 10 minutes for police, fire and emergency medical services responding to residents and businesses on a busy day.
The rail tracks bisect Hamilton north and south and are mainlines for both railroads. About 60 trains a day come through Hamilton daily and traffic is blocked at that crossing and nine others some 15 percent during the day, officials said. It will also reduce congestion along High Street which has an underpass for vehicles to avoid rail crossings.
Since March, utility relocation work and other preparations have been made. Some prep work has been more than a year in the making.
Engle said the contractor, John R. Jurgensen Co., has already mobilized to begin construction.
“For the next 90 days, contractor will be performing clearing and grubbing, removal of pavement, excavation and embankment, demolition of existing structures, and installation of drainage, underground utilities and electric facilities,” Engle said in an email.
David Spinney, Butler County Transportation Improvement District, said he had not seen the complete construction schedule from the contractor but said he received a briefing Thursday covering the next 30 to 60 days. He said there will be some demolition work, and an underground tank from an old gas station will be removed. In addition, he said there will be work building the embankments on the east and west sides of the tracks as well as bringing in fill for the west side of the project.
“Jurgensen was anxious to get going, and so are we,” Spinney said.
He said once the construction schedule is finalized in the next few weeks, there will be more project information on the city and county websites. In addition, he said residents in the immediate vicinity of the construction project will also be receiving door hangers with more detailed information.
Spinney said he was “relieved as this has been a long time coming.”
Jim Blount, BCTID chairman and local historian, said there were still “a lot of little details to complete.”
He said work is beginning with about eight property acquisitions yet to complete. Blount said the project required the acquisition of nearly 80 properties that ranged from a few feet to entire parcels of land.
“It’s very satisfying to see this happening,” Blount said. “It’s taken a lot of people to get this done…. You know what needs to be done then it’s getting all the small moving pieces together — and they’re still moving.”
Blount, a former Journal-News editor, said he had written stories and columns about the need for the overpass and never thought this project would come to fruition. He said until 1960, the South Hamilton Crossing project was a top priority for the city. However, it was later decided that it made more sense to complete High Street first to the connector (eventually to Interstate 75), he said.
Smith praised the efforts of Blount, Melissa Taylor at ODOT, Vice Mayor Carla Fiehrer and Hamilton City Council in making this project a priority.
5/9/16 Journal news article
South Hamilton Crossing project reaches key milestone
HAMILTON — After more than a century of talking about the need for an overpass over South Hamilton Crossing, the longawaited project could begin sometime next month.
The Butler County Transportation Improvement District voted Monday to award the construction contract with the John R. Jurgensen Co.
David Spinney, executive director of the Butler County Transportation Improvement District, said the bids were opened on April 28 and that the apparent low bidder was the John R.
Jurgensen Co. of Sharonville. Spinney said the TID and city officials met with company officials to reviewing the bid before it goes before it went to the board for final approval.
“The low (base) bid was just under $17 million and there are a couple of alternate bids,” he said.
Spinney said he will be recommending an overall bid of more than $17.9 million with two alternatives that include some piping made with reinforced concrete lining for drainage
and the other alternative will be for fencing and lighting on the overpass.
He expects construction on the longawaited project to begin sometime in June pending completion of final reviews and paperwork.
In addition, the BCTID also approved a $1.7 million contract with Omnipro of Gahanna, Ohio, for construction management and inspection services.
“I never thought this would ever happen,” said Jim Blount, BCTID chairman, former JournalNews editor, and local historian. “I wrote columns and stories about this for decades.”
Blount said until 1960, the South Hamilton Crossing project was a top priority for the city. However, it was later decided that it made more sense to complete High Street first to the
connector (eventually to Interstate 75), he said.
The nearly $29 million railroad overpass project, which has been more than 100 years in the making, has been making progress in getting started. Since March, preparation work
has been underway as the city of Hamilton closed the Central Avenue crossing just north of Grand Boulevard and Pleasant Avenue and Cincinnati Bell crews have been relocating
major telecommunication lines.
Hamilton City Council recently approved an amendment to the agreement between the city and BCTID for the project, which is expected to be completed sometime in 2018.
The planned project includes various improvements on Grand Boulevard starting just west of Twelfth Street. The project includes various street and intersection improvements, an
overpass over the CSX railroad tracks, a relocated intersection of Grand Boulevard and Pleasant Avenue/U.S. 127, and continuing with the extension of Grand Boulevard with other
future intersection improvements before connecting with University Boulevard.
The new road extension and overpass will create a new direct east/west route from Ohio 4 to University Boulevard for residents and businesses. In addition, it will provide a direct
route to Miami University Hamilton and the Vora Technology Park, where 1,500 new jobs at the new BarclayCard processing facility will be located, and also open up between 50 to
60 acres of greenfield at the cityowned University Commerce Park for future development.
Once the project is completed sometime in late 2018, it will eliminate several safety issues that has concerned city officials since 1910 that include numerous car/train accidents
where two lanes of Central Avenue cross four rail tracks owned by CSX and Norfolk Southern, as well as delaying first responders in emergencies due to train traffic, according to
City officials have also said when the rail crossing is blocked due to passing trains, it could mean a detour of about three miles and adding close to 10 minutes for police, fire and
emergency medical services responding to residents and businesses on a busy day. The rail tracks bisect Hamilton north and south and are mainlines for both railroads. About 60
trains a day come through Hamilton daily and traffic is blocked at that crossing and nine others some 15 percent during the day, officials said.
In addition to eliminating the current unsafe rail crossing that is used by thousands of vehicles a day, the new overpass will reduce congestion on High Street.
Rich Engle, city engineer and public works director, said the current average daily traffic is 16,700 vehicles, excluding trucks which are prohibited from using it.
“Future Average Daily Traffic is predicted to be the same,” he said in an email. “However, be aware this prediction was made prior to Barclaycard moving into Vora. So there will be
more traffic including trucks.”
Engle said, “I expect traffic on High Street using the underpass will diminish somewhat because motorists will find the connection between South Erie Highway and Pleasant
Avenue to be more convenient to use.”
9/14/15 Journal news article
Received a fiscal shot
in the arm, with $3.75 million from the Federal Surface Transportation Program.
The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) — a group of local governments, business organizations and community groups —
committed $2.4 million for land acquisition for the project in 2012, which at the time, was recognized as one of nine critically needed infrastructure
improvements in Butler and Warren counties.
The SHX project will improve transportation in the city by replacing an existing railroad crossing with a railroad overpass “created
by extending Grand Boulevard to the west,” said City Manager Joshua Smith.
The completed SHX should help solve some pressing transportation issues and will allow better access to Vora Technology Park, University
Commerce Park and Miami University Hamilton according to Brandon Saurber, chief of staff for the city of Hamilton.
“It’s difficult to overstate the importance of the South Hamilton Crossing project. East/west mobility through the city is a challenge
given the amount of rail traffic that runs north/south through the city,” he said.
“This project will offer dramatically improved access on the southeast side of Hamilton for the further development around Vora Technology
Park, Miami University Hamilton, and the largely undeveloped University Commerce Park. Safety is also a huge factor in this. Aside from
the elimination of the existing railroad crossing and its complicated geometry, this will also allow for more efficient responses from our
police and fire divisions,” Saurber said.
Dave Spinney, of the Butler County Transportation Improvement District (TID), said his agency joined Hamilton in applying for the recently
awarded funding this year.
Besides the money received from OKI, the state of Ohio has kicked in $10 million and the Butler County Engineer’s Office has contributed $100,000
to the project. The Butler County TID added a significant amount as well — chipping in $500,000.
Smith said Hamilton plans to contribute roughly half of the project’s total cost which is in the range of $29 million. He said the partnerships
involved with SHX have been a win-win for everybody.
“OKI’s support of the South Hamilton Crossing project is crucial to its success and illustrates how important the overpass is to our regional transit network,” Smith said in a statement. “SHX is very important for both safety and economic reasons. With the recent announcement that Barclaycard is opening a 1,500 person facility at Vora Technology Park, the need for better access to the area is more important now than ever.”
Saurber said the project is expected to start construction in 2016 and continue through 2018