Tuesday evening marked the initiation of the last of three phases of U.S. 27 North improvements as Oxford City Council unanimously approved the transfer of $1.466 million to the project.
“Back in 1984, a study was done that said improvements should be done on the U.S. 27 corridor,” City Service Director Mike Driesbach said. “We are finally making those changes.”
The final phase of this project will make improvements such as widening the road, adding new turning lanes and adding new sidewalks, Driesbach said.
The U.S. 27 North improvements have cost around the city of Oxford around $14 million – of which $5 million is local – and most of which comes from a federal earmark for road and safety improvements to Butler County.
“Had it not been for that (federal government aid) we would not have money for this project,” Driesbach said.
For this project, Butler County used imminent domain laws to obtain three pieces of property that would allow for widening the road. If the price of the properties exceeds the county appraisers decision of worth, the city of Oxford and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) will have to decide responsibility for payment.
“What concerns me is our responsibility for change orders because of (the Ohio Department of Transportation),” Councilor Ken Bogard said.
In tandem, the transfer of funds for this project came from finances put aside for the U.S. 27 South project, City Manager Douglas Elliott said.
“Us transferring funds means we are that much shorter on U.S. 27 South,” Elliott said.
With a shortage of funds on that project, the outcome would be less financial flexibility for the city of Oxford after completion on both corridors.
“Any overage on the (U.S. 27 North) project reduces funds that are available to the city of Oxford,” Driesbach said.
However, the city was already going to be $8 million short of finances needed for the recommended scope of that project, Elliott said.
Elliott met with ODOT Wednesday in hopes of finding a resolution to the financial problem. Eliott said the hope is that additional funds for the project could come through stimulus money, additional earmarks or even ODOT allocating additional funds.
“Our goals are going to peruse other sources of funding,” Elliott said. “Hopefully we’ll be successful in securing additional funding.”
If funding does not become available, Elliott said they may make the city first priority and begin the project within the city limits and continuing until funds run out.
Councilor Greg Rutherford said this project will not only clean up a roadway in need of repair but will also keep Oxford citizens safer.
Rutherford encouraged Oxford residents at Tuesday’s city council meeting to reach out to community and state leaders to continue the funding for this project.
“Do whatever you need to do to keep this corridor safe to our citizens,” Rutherford said.