Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 1999
Ohio 4 Bypass not completed; extensions sidetracked in '70s
By Jim Blount
A highway improvement outlined in the 1960s remains only partially completed, despite dramatic residential and commercial growth in the Ohio 4 Bypass corridor.
The bypass was constructed to reduce traffic on Ohio 4 through Hamilton and Fairfield. The six-mile, two-lane road from Ohio 4 at Ross Road in Fairfield to Ohio 4 near Millikin and Reigart roads in Fairfield Township, northeast of Hamilton, was completed in 1970 at a cost of $2 million.
Within five years, the road was handling an average of 6,480 vehicles on the Fairfield portion, 9,080 between Port Union and Tylersville Road, and 4,400 between Ohio 129 (Princeton Road or High Street extension) and Ohio 4 in Fairfield Township. It was built on four-lane right-of-way in anticipation of future widening. It remains just two lanes.
Before its completion, there were plans to extend the bypass both north and south -- proposals that succumbed to surrounding developments, rising highway costs and shortages of local, state and federal highway money.
A 2.4-mile southern leg of Ohio 4 Bypass would have extended through Fairfield into Hamilton County to a new I-275 interchange at Hall Road. That segment -- estimated at $1.5 million in 1969 -- had a $5.1 million price tag by 1972 when the state announced it didn't have the money to proceed.
The expansion of the I-75-Gilmore Road interchange, in connection with the building of Forest Fair Mall, and the widening of Gilmore Road in Fairfield have made that part of the 1969-70 plan obsolete.
The northern addition -- as planned in the middle 1960s -- would have run to the Trenton area. There it would have connected to Ohio 73 and a proposed OKI Beltway, an east-west bypass between Hamilton and Middletown.
In 1971, it would have cost at least $20 million to establish a four-lane divided Ohio 4 Bypass from Ohio 4 in Fairfield north to Ohio 73 near Trenton, according to estimates by the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Council of Governments.
The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana planning agency proposed upgrading the existing six miles of Ohio 4 Bypass to four lanes at a cost of about $6.1 million. Seven miles of new roadway to the north would have cost $13.2 million, according to the 1971 OKI estimate.
One of the advantages of an expanded Ohio 4 Bypass to Ohio 73 would have been providing a truck bypass around Hamilton for some vehicles now using U. S. 127 through the city. Recently there has been some talk of reviving the northern extension, either to the Trenton area, or curving west to New Miami and the west side of Hamilton.
Since the opening of Ohio 4 Bypass, much of the adjacent areas in Hamilton, Fairfield and Fairfield Township have been developed, mostly with industrial and commercial enterprises.
When it opened, the bypass had no traffic signals except stop signs for five intersecting roads. A series of accidents and increased cross traffic have resulted in electronic signals at every intersection -- Port Union, Symmes, Tylersville, Hamilton-Mason and Princeton (Ohio 129) roads.
In 1969, the Ohio 4 Bypass was one of several Butler County projects planned for construction between 1970 and 1972 by the Ohio Department of Highways. They included the three-state OKI Outer Belt (beyond I-275) previously mentioned; and a 15-mile freeway linking Hamilton to I-75 and I-71 (now under construction only to I-75 as the Butler Regional Highway).
Also on the drawing board in 1969 were an Oxford bypass from the junction of U. S. 27 and Ohio 130 at McGonigle to Ohio 732 north of Oxford; and relocation of Ohio 122 between the Preble County line and Middletown.
High inflation rates, funding debates, pressures to complete Ohio's interstate highways and the advent of environmental impact studies were some of the factors that dashed Butler County road plans in the early 1970s.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 1999
Union Station proposed in 1920 plan because of local passenger train traffic
By Jim Blount
Authors of Hamilton's 1920 city plan focused much of their attention on the railroads that served the city of 39,675 people nearly 80 years ago. They proposed a Union Station to alleviate the inconvenience of two depots. Passengers who had to shuttle between the stations and residents whose travel was interrupted by stopped trains welcomed the idea.
"The Union Station would be located in the block bounded by Fourth, Fifth, Sycamore and Charles streets, and front the present Fourth Ward Park," said Harland Bartholomew, the St. Louis city planner who prepared the 1920 document.
"A union station located at this point," the plan said, "would do much to relieve the transportation difficulties of Hamilton inasmuch as it would permit the separation of freight and passenger traffic. It would further adapt itself to the grade crossing elimination program and would be advantageously located with respect to the future expansion of the business district."
Three railroads were involved: The Baltimore & Ohio; the Cincinnati, Indianapolis & Western (CI&W); and the Pennsylvania (PRR or PCC&St.L). The B&O and CI&W shared the station on South Fifth Street while the PRR depot was on South Seventh Street.
The two stations, the plan said, "are located about one half mile apart with no satisfactory streetcar service between them. The stations are no larger than necessary to accommodate their present traffic and in the course of a few years will prove wholly inadequate."
"Aside from being a convenience to the public and a source of pride to the community," the proposal observed, "a central union station will prove of great value to the railroads in both the administration of their business and the operation of their trains."
Planners weighed many factors in suggesting the location of the station. "The most important of which were," the plan said, "the location of the industries; the approach of the CI&W into the city; the desirability of separating freight and passenger traffic; adaptability to the track elevation scheme; accessibility to the public; and also the probable future expansion of the business district."
"The Fourth Ward Park, together with the intervening property developed into a plaza, lends itself very admirably to such a project and would do much to enhance the station site as well as the surrounding property," the proposal said.
"The main entrance to the Union Station would be on Fourth Street and the building should be so designed that the elevated station tracks would pass in the rear on a level with the second floor," the document said.
"Beginning at a point south of the Union Station one elevated track would go down an incline of one percent to the present B&O freight yards at grade. This is necessary to facilitate the movement of inbound and outbound freight on the B&O.
"From the B&O yards a track at grade would parallel the elevated structure and connect with the B&O team tracks and freight houses to the north and would serve as an interchange" between the B&O and the PRR.
Would local passenger traffic have justified a Hamilton Union Station? At first, it would.
By the end of the decade, about 30 daily trains stopped in the city. Twenty years later, in the late 1940s, only a dozen daily passenger trains served Hamilton. Now, Amtrak's Cardinal stops in Hamilton. It runs three times a week in each direction between Washington and Chicago.
Obviously, the Union Station plan never materialized. Not mentioned in the 1920 plan was an estimate of the expense of building such a structure, nor a proposal for gaining railroad support and having them share the cost.
Next week, this column will review other railroad proposals in the 1920 city plan.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan.. 20, 1999
1920 Hamilton depended on railroads; elevation of tracks part of city's plan
By Jim Blount
"The growth and expansion of a city is in an ever growing measure predicated upon its transportation facilities. Without proper transportation, no city can make progress," observed a city planner in surveying Hamilton. The statement -- although still relevant -- isn't recent. It was in the City Plan of Hamilton, completed in 1920 by Harland Bartholomew, a St. Louis city plan engineer.
"Hamilton is a manufacturing community and is dependent upon the railroads for the conduct of its main activities," noted the plan, which suggested elevating tracks through the city.
Five railroads served the city over three busy mainlines. The Cincinnati, Indianapolis & Western (CI&W) ran between Indianapolis and Hamilton, via Oxford. Also operating on Baltimore & Ohio's Cincinnati-Dayton-Toledo tracks were some trains of the CI&W and the Erie.
On the Cincinnati-Chicago route of the Pennsylvania Railroad were trains of the Grand Rapids & Indiana (GR&I). In the 1920 document, the PRR was identified as the PCC&St.L (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis)
"Hamilton is not a terminus of any of these lines," the 1920 plan said, "but the freight trains of the CI&W breakup in the B&O yards. The B&O is double tracked from Cincinnati to Dayton and handles more trains through Hamilton than all other lines combined."
"The most vital problem in connection with the transportation situation is that of grade crossings," the planners found. They recommended elimination of grade crossings on major streets.
"By concentrating attention and expenditures upon important points, a great saving would result to both city and railroads." The plan said "the operation of trains through the heart of the city on grade, with the resultant delays to traffic and increasing dangers to life and property, shows clearly the necessity of removing tracks from the streets."
"The several fatal accidents in and near Hamilton in the last year should serve as incentives to abolish this source of danger."
"It is proposed to elevate the railroads above the street grades," the plan said. "This scheme also embraces the location of a Union Station, freight yards and team tracks, as well as the elevation of the tracks through the main part of the city."
Starting north of Hamilton, planners suggested that "the tracks would rise on a one percent grade to a height of approximately 16 feet and remain elevated to a point south of the intersection of Grand Boulevard and the Dixie Highway. This elevation would be on the right-of-way of the B&O RR and would accommodate all the passenger trains of the B&O and PCC&St.L as well as all through freight trains of both roads."
In addition, "the CI&W would be elevated along its present right-of-way from the bridge (over the Great Miami River) to its connection with the B&O RR" at South Fifth Street.
Connections between the railroads would be required near the southern and northern city limits. The proposal also would have necessitated an agreement among the railroads for the joint use of the B&O track "to a point beyond Lindenwald, from which the PCC&St.L could swing over to its own right-of-way, a distance of 1,800 feet."
But not all tracks in Hamilton would be elevated. The plan said "alongside the elevated structure would be a track on grade to serve adjacent industries."
Planners also said "the small amount of train movement over the Middletown branch of the B&O RR (via LeSourdsville) makes it unnecessary to give this line any consideration other than to provide adequate protection at the High Street and Middletown Pike crossings."
The costly elevated railroad plan never got off the drawing board. Hamilton drivers had to wait until 1983 for some relief from grade-crossing rail traffic delays. The High Street Underpass opened that year.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 1999
Ohio River once entered Butler County
By Jim Blount
Imagine Cincinnati in Hamilton's location and Northern Kentucky in place of Fairfield. That would put the northern riverfront -- planned as the site of two new stadiums, at least one museum and possibly other attractions -- in the vicinity of Nilles and Symmes roads.
That could be the geography of south central Butler County if thousands of year ago glaciers had not diverted the course of what is today the Ohio River.
"The present Ohio (River), except for its lower third and short segments of its upper reaches, is not old, as rivers go, perhaps only 40,000 or 50,000 years ago," said R. E. Banta in his book, The Ohio, published in 1949 as part of the Rivers of America series.
One dominant theory is that the pre-glacial Ohio River bowed north into Butler County.
From about California, a small river community east of Cincinnati, it looped north on an irregular line into Butler County toward Hamilton. From about the present Bond Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati the river followed the course of present Mill Creek, gradually curving northwest.
In what is now Fairfield, at about Symmes Corner (the intersection of Pleasant Avenue and Nilles Road), it headed southwest through Ross and New Haven before swinging south into its present configuration west of Cleves and North Bend. Some of its route was the same as the modern Great Miami River. All this changed, some geologists report, when a glacier crept south over Butler and Hamilton counties thousands of years ago.
If the ice hadn't reshaped the land, more than half of neighboring Hamilton County would be south of the river. About a sixth of Butler County -- or almost all of the City of Fairfield -- also would be in Kentucky.
Part of the theory is that a massive glacier -- perhaps the second in an Ice Age series -- had dammed the ancient Ohio River, causing a 50-mile lake to form behind the blockage. Gradually, the water cut through the ice and moraine to establish the present channel.
An earlier glacier had carved rivers that ran north through Ohio, including the now extinct Teays River, which was well to the east of Butler County. There is evidence the Teays ran north from North Carolina and Virginia, along the course of the present Kanawha River, and then north in the present Scioto Valley to Chillicothe, Ohio, before turning west to Indiana and Illinois.
"The largest western tributary of the Teays," said Banta, "flowed north in the present Great Miami Valley. This river, called the Ancient Cincinnati, had three main tributaries: the Ancient Manchester, Licking and Kentucky rivers."
"The pre-glacial Manchester headed on the west side of a divide in the present Ohio Valley near Manchester, Ohio, and along its course it joined the Ancient Licking, which flowed through its present course, but continued north through the valley of the Mill Creek, at present Cincinnati," Banta explained.
"Well above their junction," he wrote, "entered the pre-glacial Kentucky River, which, flowing north, had arrived at the present Ohio through approximately the bed it still occupies and continued northeast up the Ohio and Great Miami channels in reverse of the flow of those streams today."
North of present Cincinnati, Banta said, the ancient Manchester and Kentucky rivers "met to form the Ancient Cincinnati River, which then flowed due north to enter the Teays somewhere in the great basin near the Ohio-Indiana line, which now gives rise to the Great Miami and to tributaries of the modern Wabash and Maumee rivers."
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