Butler highway section opens


BY AMY HIGGINS
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON — With a portion of the Butler Regional Highway now open, one neighborhood's traffic nightmare may be over.

The Butler County Transportation Improvement District (TID) on Monday opened less than a half-mile of the highway from Hampshire Drive to Fair Avenue.

The $93 million, 11-mile highway will link Hamilton to Interstate 75. The entire project is 47 percent done and is expected to be completed in the fall.

TID officials say the early opening of the western segment will relieve a residential neighborhood's traffic problems caused when Princeton Road, a main eastern gateway, was closed.

“I know they've had it, unfortunately, very bad,” said Monica Menke-Watts, TID spokeswoman. “There is a lot of through-traffic through there that isn't supposed to be there, but when people start finding a short cut they take it.”

Ms. Menke-Watts said the official detour for Princeton Road takes drivers on Ohio 4 Bypass north to Ohio 4.

Monica Blevens knows that not everybody uses it. The Vista Drive resident said her street became the major thoroughfare for commuters displaced from Princeton Road. Other alternatives still take drivers at least a mile out of their way.

“It's been a nightmare,” Ms. Blevens said. “Our kids can't cross the street... Large semi trucks come through here. These roads aren't made for semis.”

Adding to her neighbors' complaints about dropping property values and prolonged construction noise, Ms. Blevens said her neighborhood isn't safe anymore. A commuter smashed into her 1994 Sunbird when it was parked on the street. Now she won't let her 9-year-old, Ryan, cross the street to his best friend's house without supervision.

She hopes the Butler Regional Highway opening will end her worries.

“I'll be so glad about that,” she said, “so glad.”

The highway is opening only to Fair Avenue, however, not to its ultimate endpoint of High Street and Erie Boulevard. So, to get to High Street, Hamilton's main thoroughfare, traffic will still use residential side streets.

Teresa Webb is sure many commuters will use her street as a short cut. Maple Avenue runs straight from Fair to

Erie. Using Maple instead of the next major road cuts the driving distance from the highway to High Street by almost one-quarter of a mile.

Ms. Webb said there already is so much fast traffic on Maple Drive that she doesn't let her children play in the front yard.

“It's bad as it is,” Ms. Webb said. “It's only 25 (mph) through here. I don't think anybody drives 25. ”

Maple is a narrow road with street parking on both sides. Cars often must pull to the side to let an oncoming car pass. Ms. Webb's daughter, Barbara Sams, doesn't like to ride her bike because of the traffic.

“Because a lot of stupid people get on the sidewalk, and stuff,” the 9- year-old said, referring to some drivers parking more on the curb than the street to keep their cars out of the traffic.

Ms. Menke-Watts said opening the Butler Regional Highway section early was not in the original plans but was done to help Hamilton residents. The highway won't open to the High Street/Ohio 4 intersection until the entire stretch is complete.

“We're not trying to create more problems for residents on Maple,” she said. “We will monitor the traffic to see what happens and work with the city of Hamilton if it becomes a problem or issue.”



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