Clermont County Engineer Pat Manger has announced that two road projects to benefit the University of Cincinnati Clermont will be going forward this year.
The county will be constructing an alternate entrance to U.C. Clermont from Old state Route 74 and will be resurfacing James Sauls Sr. Drive to provide access to the new classrooms currently being remodeled at the Batavia Ford Plant.
Bids for the extension of Clermont College Drive to Old 74 were opened Thursday, April 8. While estimates for the project were set at $1 million, the lowest bid was Broshear Contractors with a bid of $703,262. Manger said Broshear will begin as soon as contracts are finalized and the road could be completed as early as September.
Old 74 will curve to the right just before the dead end at state Route 32 and will continue between the Clermont County Airport runway and S.R. 32 before connecting to College Drive near the entrance of the college.
"It took a lot of effort," Manger said of the project. "We have state funding both through the Public Works Commission, and DOD (Department of Development), we have ARC (Appalachian Region Commission) funding that (Clermont County Commissioner Bob) Proud was able to secure, and we also have private funds from the college and some of the businesses in the area. It is a very unique project."
UC Clermont interim Dean Robert Michael "Mick" McLaughlin said the college donated $100,000 to the project.
"It will provide a much needed second entrance into that area," Manger said. "As you know College Drive is a dead end road and from time to time there have been different situations. Any time you can have multiple was in and out of such a highly used resource in the county it's a benefit."
McLaughlin said the road is a highly anticipated project the college has been interested in for years. He also emphasized Manger's point that a second entrance was needed for emergencies and other unique situations.
"Obviously having another road into the college to give our students, particularly from the east, a different access point is just a tremendous option for us," McLaughlin said. "It gives us another door. Obviously it will be a big plus in the winter time should the hill be snow laden and difficult to travel on."
Manger said the project may help secure funding for an upgrade to Old 74 between Stonelick Olive Branch Road and the end of Old 74 and the installation of a traffic light at that intersection in several years.
"If we would have went in, say a year or two ago, with this Old 74 widening project, it would not have ranked very well (in the funding pool) at all because quite frankly you're widening a dead end road," Manger said. "So timing is everything and fortunately we were able to finally get the College Drive extension project underway."
The improvement and extension of Old 74 is part of an overall plan to create parallel access roads along S.R. 32 as the intersections on the highway are eliminated and the road is developed into a limited access highway with three exit ramps between the Hamilton County line and Batavia, not including the I-275 interchange.
"The good news is, from a transportation standpoint, you're eliminating all these access points and you make the road safer," Manager said. "Well, economically we would really jeopardize the whole region. So, we're balancing developing an efficient transportation system while at the same time maintaining some economic vitality to the area."
The Ohio Department of Transportation's goal is to eliminate all of the "at grade" stoplight intersections in order to create a much safer, faster moving highway that will spur development east along the S.R. 32 corridor.
"The traffic volumes are approaching interstate levels," Manger said. "If you're on 275, 71, or 75, you would not expect to approach a traffic signal. You can't have that kind of volume with traffic signals."
Manger said before ODOT can achieve its goal the county needs to be prepared to handle the volume of local traffic that can be expected from such a project.
"As these intersections are removed, the solution needs to be in place to accommodate that," Manger said.
The parallel access roads are a key part of that process. The goal is to have two roads parallel to S.R. 32 to the north, called Old 74, and south, called Aicholtz Road, to provide access to the developments along the highway and to interconnect the highway ramps. The College Drive extension would connect the Batavia exit with the Olive Branch-Stonelick Road exit.
"A lot of projects, while they may originate in a township, they may be connected to a lot of projects within the region," Manger said. "We're incorporating those overall strategies into everything we do so eventually as the pieces get built we have don't have 20 isolated projects. We'll have a continuous, uniformed roadway system."
Part of that system includes resurfacing James Sauls Sr. Drive.
"It's been 22 years, almost 23 years since that has been built or repave and it is in bad shape," Manger said.
The county has received funding from an Ohio Public Works Commission grant to rebuild James Sauls Sr. Drive and a portion of Batavia Road from the ground up. Manger said the surface in place would be recycled through a process called full-depth reclamation.
"Basically they come in and they grind the asphalt and the sub-base together, apply calciumate or lime stabilization and basically use all the material that's in place instead of hauling it all out and hauling the new in. It's very efficient."