Businesses along U.S. Route 35 near Orchard Lane in Beavercreek fear the state’s plan for a $100 million road construction project could lead to declining revenues and eventually job losses.
The project, with construction set to begin in 2016, is designed to reduce congestion and improve travel times and safety, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.
“There are a lot of tax dollars on the corner of Orchard and 35 from the car lots and the property owned by various businesses,” said Larry Spicer, the business administrator for Arnold Enterprises, Inc., a building and development company, on Orchard Lane.
“We provide tax dollars to various schools but we also provide sales tax dollars to the state of Ohio and there are a number of business who do not want to relocate because they have invested quite a bit into the physical structure of the businesses.
The project calls for removing traffic signals and replacing them with a Texas turnaround, or Texas U-turn. Texas turnarounds use turnaround or u-turn ramps to allow traffic moving in one direction to turn around and travel in the opposite direction using an under or overpass.
Spicer said he also has concerns about the height of the proposed redesigned highway. If it’s too tall, drivers might not be able to see businesses on the Route 35 corridor, he said.
Stephen Sexton, a Lang Chevrolet dealer principal, said the project is unwarranted and he fears his dealership will lose half of its staff during the construction phase of the project.
“I believe that the project is not needed basically because ODOT suggested it was a safety issue, which it is not in my opinion, and it’s going to cost a lot of jobs in this area,” said Sexton.
“People will find a way around a major project like this,” Sexton said.
Joe Hidy, of Hidy dealerships, called the project “overkill” and said he expects it to end up costing at least a couple hundred jobs.
“To me it looks like a total mess,” he said. “The current model isn’t business friendly.”
Jobs within a one mile radius of the proposed highway changes totaled 4,828 in 2010 according to Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission estimates. That number is expected to increase to 7,082 by 2040.
Greene County Commissioner Bob Glaser said he was confused by opposition to the proposed redesign. He believes the changes will improve access to businesses in the area.
Glaser pointed to the number of traffic collisions in the area and said the redesign would improve safety.
Within the last three years, there have been 297 crashes within the last three years between North Fairfield Road and the Xenia Bypass, according to ODOT data. More than half, about 58 percent, of these collisions are rear end crashes linked to traffic signals.
“That’s just too many accidents,” Glaser said.
In addition to safety and reduced congestion, economic impact is a factor that is taken into consideration, said Keith Smith, an ODOT engineer and project manager.
“We want to do what’s right for the community from an economic impact standpoint,” he said. “Right now it is their opinion that it is not good for their community because they have a different vision for that facility than we do,” he said referring to the highway.
While having a section of highway with traffic signals and lower speeds could be more beneficial to businesses who want motorists to see their stores, the idea goes against the initial intent behind U.S. Route 35, Smith said.
“It’s a U.S. route meant to transport people and goods across the state,” he said.
The state transportation agency explored other options for improving safety, such as adding a third lane to the roadway but rejected the idea because it was too costly.
“It wouldn’t give you enough benefit for the money it would cost to build it,” Smith said.
ODOT is planning a meeting in October to seek public comment. No date has been set.