By Nathan Pilling
XENIA — The superstreet project on U.S. Route 35 in Beavercreek Township will likely move forward after state officials presented preliminary plans to community stakeholders this week.
“We have a ways to go,” Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) representative Keith Smith said. “We’re just looking into it right now to make sure everyone’s comfortable with us doing this. … My gut feeling is it’s gonna be accepted by the community. It’s something they at least want to move forward with, at minimum in concept.”
Business owners, officials from the city of Beavercreek, Beavercreek Township, Greene County, area law enforcement representatives and other interested parties heard plans Tuesday and Wednesday for the proposed changes at the intersections of Route 35 and Factory Road and Orchard Lane in Beavercreek Township.
The project would see the elimination of left turns and straight-across driving at Factory Road and Orchard Lane, where accident numbers are high. The superstreet concept forces a driver who wants to make a left turn onto a main highway to instead make a right turn followed by a signal-controlled U-turn onto that main road. The traffic lights at the Factory and Orchard intersections would be timed to be green for drivers on Route 35 for longer amounts of time, with the goal of reducing congestion and accidents.
Early estimates indicate that project construction costs would be around $12.5 million, but any right-of-way acquisition would almost certainly boost the project’s price tag.
According to ODOT information, compared to the roadway’s current state, a proposed superstreet would allow about 830 more vehicles per hour to travel eastbound on Route 35 through the Factory Road intersection and would yield about 20 percent more “green” time to those drivers. The new intersections would both reduce the number of “conflict points” from 32 to 14.
Questions raised in both meetings were in regards to aesthetics, traffic flow, pedestrian and bicycle traffic, and whether accepting the superstreet project would hurt plans for a full $120 million raised highway/interchange project that is considered by many to be the ultimate goal for the highway.
Both ODOT and local officials have said they see the superstreet project as an interim solution for 10 years or more, while plans and funding for the raised highway project – stretching about nine miles from North Fairfield Road to the Xenia Bypass – are developed further (some estimates have put the project costs as high as $140 million).
“We all sit here and agree the interchange is the ultimate goal,” Beavercreek City Council member Zach Upton said at one of the meetings. “We’re just throwing $12 million at a project we’re going to have to fix down the road.”
Smith responded by calling the project an incremental step forward while addressing safety concerns in the area. He also said that ODOT remains committed to supporting the full project.
Beavercreek Township Trustee Carol Graff recalled hearing some of the first iterations for plans to address Route 35 concerns at a hearing in 1978.
“You tell me what has been accomplished in that time,” she said at one of the meetings. “I believe … a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and if we need to modify and beautify it, fine and dandy, but at this point, safety is the highest priority that I have as an elected official.”
According to a recent ODOT presentation, over a three-year period, there was an average of 100 rear-end accidents per year in Factory/Orchard area.
After hearing the superstreet plans Wednesday, Clay Alsip, a representative from the Jeff Schmitt Auto Group, voiced support: “This is by far the best plan I’ve seen on this in 12 years, absolutely.”
The auto dealers along Route 35 near where the project would take place, have traditionally opposed the raised highway project, citing concerns about how their business would be affected.
Smith estimated construction could begin in 2019, and estimated the project would take between 12 and 18 months to complete. Smith also noted that construction would have to be coordinated with the city of Beavercreek’s plans to relocate Shakertown Road around the same time period.
Local officials had applied for about $32 million of the raised highway project funding through ODOT’s Transportation Review Advisory Council last year, but were turned down in December.
Reach Nathan Pilling at 937-502-4498 or on Twitter @XDGNatePilling.