Liberty Twp. officials are lining up funding for the first phase of a $36 million Millikin Road interchange at Interstate 75 with a new financing district and requests for county, state and federal support.
The township recently held a virtual open house for people to learn more about the proposal and comment. Economic Development Director Caroline McKinney said 577 people gave their feedback.
“We received lots and lots of positives,” McKinney said of comments from people who live in the area. “Across the board people were acknowledging that improved access would be beneficial.”
The township and Butler County Transportation Improvement District (TID) that is shepherding the project have put out several options for the interchange:
- A traditional diamond interchange with a cost of $30.4 million would require a new six-lane bridge over the interstate
- A partial cloverleaf interchange at a cost of $33.8 million would require a new five-lane bridge
- A “teardrop” interchange at $28.9 million would utilize roundabouts for traffic navigation on the bridge and would require an additional two-lane bridge in tandem with the existing structure
- A diverging diamond interchange with a cost of $27.1 million that is identical to the new I-75 exit at Union Centre Boulevard in West Chester Twp. would require an additional two-lane bridge.
Township Administrator Kristen Bitonte said the preliminary estimate for design, right-of-way purchases and construction is $36 million. The trustees recently created a 30-year tax increment financing district that should generate about $6.1 million annually once the area develops, to help pay for the interchange.
TIF districts are an economic development tool that many local governments use to encourage new investment in an area. A district typically surrounds a parcel or group of parcels and enables the taxpayers within it to make payments into a special fund in an amount equal to their property tax liability for the life of the TIF. These payments in lieu of taxes are used by the local governments to retire debt incurred for the infrastructure improvements.
Financial analyst Andy Brossart has conservatively estimated the interchange project, when fully phased out, is going to be worth $388 million in new investment. There are about 700 undeveloped acres slated for commercial development in the Millikin Road area, and the intersection and Cox Road extension to Ohio 63 would open better access to 1,200 acres — which would hold the equivalent of 12 Liberty Centers.
Bitonte said they recently received a $1 million state grant to help pay for planning work next year. They have also asked the Butler County Commissioners for $2.3 million for some engineering and design work and to use the county’s University Pointe TIF as a “backstop” for debt repayment as the Millikin TIF starts collecting funds.
“We need the support of the University Pointe TIF because that is already generating revenue,” Bitonte said. “So that can help support until we get development going. Obviously our goal is to make sure that we can start getting folks interested in that area so that as construction is starting on that interchange we also have development opportunities.”
Commissioner T.C. Rogers said he is meeting with township officials this week to discuss the requests.
“They have put some requests down on paper. We have made no commitment,” Rogers said. “But we’re open to it. We just want to just like them, we want to make sure whatever money is put into the initial stages has a great chance of starting the project eventually.”
Commissioner Don Dixon said they need to be circumspect when considering use of the county TIF.
“We’re going to have to have a real sit down, come to Jesus meeting with everybody and get everybody on the same page,” Dixon said. “Because a lot of people look at that and say, well, that’s not real money, that’s TIF money. That’s not right. That’s tax dollars.”
The township is also working on establishing a joint economic development district JEDD with Monroe.
TID Executive Director Dan Corey said he is helping the township apply for state and federal funds for the project and the maximum they can get in federal funds is $6 million. If they are successful in culling those funds, they can be used as part of a local match to get as much as 50% in state Transportation Review Advisory Council funding.
“Typically, on a historical basis, TRAC likes for the locals to bring at least 50% and then often you ask for a 50% match for new interchanges,” Corey said. “That’s been on a historical basis.”