BY JANET C. WETZEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Twenty years after it was planned and more than a year after it was started, the $5.3 million widening of Cincinnati-Dayton Road between Middletown and Monroe is nearly finished.
The two-mile stretch, between Ohio 63 in Monroe and Greentree Road in Middletown, should be open within a month -- transformed. The old two-lane road has become a five-lane highway, with a continuous left turn lane, said Dennis Krall, chief deputy of engineering services, Butler County engineer's office.
"This is a project that Middletown and Monroe have both wanted for many, many years," said Mr. Krall, whose office is overseeing the project with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). "From a regional standpoint, we know it's going to help both of those cities, and we've always supported it."
That section of Cincinnati-Dayton Road provides convenient access from the "industrial valley in southeast Middletown" including AK Steel, to Interstate 75, Mr. Krall said.
Jay Stewart, Monroe assistant city manager, said Middletown's industries will likely see the greatest benefit. "But as for residential traffic, I think it probably benefits Monroe residents a little more, because the retail amenities of Middletown are highly utilized by Monroe people."
The county engineer became involved early on; when the project was initially planned, part of the roadway was in Lemon Township, Butler County. Since that time, annexations put the entire section in Monroe and Middletown, but the county engineer's office still agreed to handle the project, Mr. Krall said.
The project is 80 percent federally funded. Middletown and Monroe are paying the balance.
The road is used by about 11,000 motorists daily. That number is projected to be nearly 17,000 in 20 years, said Janis Cravens, ODOT public information specialist.
"It will enhance the chances of development along that route, and will alleviate congestion," Ms. Cravens said.
The work, which is being done by SE Johnson Companies Inc., Maumee, Ohio, began in June 1997, and should be finished by early September, said ODOT'S Steve Wood, project manager. Traffic has been maintained throughout the project, he said.