BY AMY HIGGINS
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LIBERTY TOWNSHIP -- Without a house standing in the way, the Butler County Transportation Improvement District (TID) has made a potential $400,000 change to its plans for the widening of Ohio 747.
At a meeting Tuesday, TID officials said West Chester developer Schumacher Dugan Construction Inc. has bought the Shepherd farmhouse at 8620 Princeton-Glendale Road and plans to raze it to make way for an extension of Union Centre Boulevard to 747.
With the house gone, TID planners can move Ohio 747 -- also called Princeton-Glendale Road -- 100 feet to the east, eliminating a potentially dangerous curve. That would put it farther from Mill Creek, and what would have been straight through the 71-year-old farmhouse. As realigned, however, the TID portion of the highway no longer meets with a section being widened by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). To line them back up -- rebuilding a section of about 900 feet -- is estimated to cost an additional $400,000.
"We had no idea about this alignment until our project was all started," said Andrew Fluegemann, ODOT engineer. "Everything was going to line up in 1996."
Greg Wilkens, TID executive director, said construction costs for the Ohio 747 improvement from the Norfolk Southern tracks to just south of Smith Road is expected to be $2.5 million to $3 million, funded through an estimated 75-cent toll placed on the Butler Regional Highway when it opens next fall.
Mr. Wilkens said right of way acquisition on the three-quarter-mile stretch will begin in the spring, with construction to begin in fall. Widening of the rest of the 2.5 miles from the railroad to the Butler Regional Highway still is years away, dependent on revenues from the freeway's tolls.
Kent Baker calls that time frame unacceptable. He is president of Comprehensive Action for Responsible Economic Spending, (CARES), a citizens group formed four years ago to oppose the Butler Regional Highway.
"In my personal opinion, the majority of residents would much rather see 747 four lanes prior to the Butler Regional Highway," Mr. Baker said. "The residents feel that it's more important. I feel its unacceptable to have it drag out another three years."
Other area residents just don't want the widening at all. Harvey and Rose Pickrum, who have lived in the Belle Meade Properties development on Princeton-Glendale Road for five years, worry that the improvements will cause more flooding problems.
Their front yard already gets 10 to 12 feet of water from a creek running through it.