"Building Towards Butler County's Future"

Butler County Pioneering New Concept in Building and Improving Highways
by Jim Blount - Board of Trustees Chairman
posted June 24, 1996

For decades, a maze of state and federal regulations and procedures discouraged the building of new highways and improvement of existing roadways in Butler County. A costly and complex system of financing transportation projects also frustrated local and county officials.

Whatever the justification for the proposal -- safety considerations, traffic problems, a base for economic and job development, or all those reasons -- the traditional system stymied progress. Too often, well-intentioned highway plans gathered dust while government red tape increased, development complicated right-of-way acquisition and construction costs skyrocketed.

Three years ago, the situation changed for the southeastern portion of Butler County, including the cities of Hamilton, Indian Springs and Fairfield, and Union and Liberty townships.

That's when the Butler County Transportation Improvement District began to take shape, thanks to legislation originated by State Rep. Mike Fox.

"Its purpose is to design and build a network of highways which will improve transportation and enhance economic development," Fox said of the TID, which was designed as a pilot program.

"We wanted to start over with a blank sheet of paper . . . to reinvent the process of building highways" Fox explained. Part of it, he stressed, is to introduce "an entrepreneurship approach" instead of the process-dominated government system. This featured increasing financial options, including the leverage of funds.

"It also shifted control of the flow of highway work to the home area -- to the governments closer to those affected by its actions," Fox said in describing the rationale for the TID. "It gives us the ability to chart our own course," he emphasized.

Legislation enabling Butler County to pioneer the concept was passed June 30, 1993.

Later, the General Assembly extended the program to permit other Ohio counties to form districts.

Butler County commissioners created the Butler County Transportation Improvement District Dec. 7, 1993. The TID board held its first meeting Jan. 31, 1994, with members appointed by the county and included cities and townships.

In September 1994, the organization cleared a major hurdle in gaining Federal Highway Administration approval to explore innovative financing for local road projects.

The TID board hired H. Darrell Barger as its full-time director in January 1995.

Later that year, critical agreements were negotiated with the Ohio Department of Transportation. One was a September 1995 a pact that granted TID financial responsibility and control of design consultant contracts for the Butler Regional Highway, a move that dramatically reduced red tape and delays.

The TID -- although it must adhere to state and federal regulations -- is empowered to plan, finance and construct highway additions and improvements without following the cumbersome government procedures.

Its projects are in cooperation with local governments, the Butler County engineer's office, the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration..

Unlike the state -- which takes one step at a time -- TID can contract for design of a road and acquire property in the right-of-way at the same time. TID also can issue bonds -- with annual payments coming from the state -- and spread the cost of building a road over 20 years instead of waiting on large allocations from state and federal highway funds.

The 10-mile Butler County Regional Highway (also known as relocated Ohio 129) is one of the projects now under TID direction. In 1995, TID began purchasing property in the BCRH right-of-way and hired a consulting firm to complete design and other details.

The first visible sign of progress on the long-delayed east-west road came March 18, 1996, when a house on High Street in Hamilton, near Garfield Jr. High School, was demolished.

Other improvements presently directed by or involving the Butler County TID are:

~ An I-75 interchange near Allen Road in Union Township (Union Centre Blvd.).

~ Extensions of Symmes and Muhlhauser roads in Hamilton, Fairfield and Union Township [renamed West Chester Township in 2000], which will tie into the new Allen Road I-75 interchange.

~ Ohio 747 upgrades, starting with the widening of the Tylersville Road intersection.

~ Widening of I-75 north of I-275 in cooperation with state and federal agencies.


Last Updated: November 3, 2008