Hitting the streets: Hamilton uses levy to boost its pavement program

May 19—It's a complaint many Hamiltonians have: fix the roads.

The city has been — sections of about 30 streets are expected to be paved this year and next — but it's not been a quick process.

Four years ago, half of the city's neighborhood streets were in poor condition, according to a 2019 Pavement Condition Index (PCI). The available funding could not match the speed needed to repair them.

More money was needed to get the city's residential streets up to a "good" PCI condition. In 2019, only 30% of the streets were rated that high. The annual resurfacing budget was about $1.2 million, including an annual $1 million grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission.

"It was clear the streets were failing faster than the annual resurfacing budget could restore them," said Hamilton Director of Engineering Rich Engle. "As a result, there was a decision to present this information to the Hamilton community to see if they would support a 10-year Streets Levy."

Hamilton put the $31 million Streets Levy on the March 2020 ballot. More than 6,300 people citywide cast votes on the issue in a divided election. The levy passed, but barely. Only 104 more people said "yes" than those who said "no," according to Butler County election results.

After the narrow passage, the levy collections began in 2021, and so did the street repairs.

Funds were to be proportionally spread across all 17 neighborhoods based on centerline miles and only allowed to be used on neighborhood streets.

The program today has 91 local streets identified ― residents prompted the addition of 76 streets to the original list ― and about a third have either been repaved, are in the process of being repaved, or scheduled to be repaved. However, Engle said being on the list does not mean Streets Levy funds were or will be used, noting other funding sources, whether local, state or federal, may be used.

Since 2021, 8.24 centerline miles have been paved using Streets Levy funds. However, many more miles of Hamilton roads have new asphalt in the past few years that did not use levy funds, such as the roads that support the Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill project.

Residents asked for input

City officials want to expand the list of local streets in need of paving and encourage residents to let the city's Public Works Department know what roads they need to address. Residents are encouraged to visit hamilton-oh.gov/streetslevy to add to the list of streets needing to be repaved.

Paving won't happen in every neighborhood every year, and the levy won't pay for every neighborhood road to be repaved. The 2019 estimate said in order to improve all streets to a "good" PCI rating, it would cost upwards of $140 million. The levy won't collect nearly that much money, but it will help pay for a majority of the residential streets as levy funds will be leveraged by other funding sources.

The formula to prioritize streets includes public input, the overall condition, proximity, planned projects, the condition of underground utilities, traffic volumes and external funding. The areas that will see the majority of the levy funds are the Lindenwald and New London neighborhoods, followed by the Millikin, North End, Washington and East End neighborhoods.

In the first year, the city spent nearly $2 million in levy funds on improving roads. In 2022, nearly $3 million was spent. About $82,000 was spent in 2023, but this year and in 2025, the city is planning bigger paving years that will require nearly $8.7 million in total. Though a paving schedule has not yet been established, all or sections of around 30 streets are expected to be paved this year and next.

Nearly $850,000 of the levy funds are being used for the Tylersville Road reconstruction in the Enterprise Park area. That project began in March and is expected to cost just more than $4 million. Another $2.5 million will be used for the 2024/2025 Concrete Repair and Resurfacing Project, which is expected to be more than $4.4 million and bid out in later this year. Other funding sources for the Concrete Repair and Resurfacing Project include an Ohio Public Works Commission grant, the city's storm funds and a CDBG grant.

Not all paving the same

But not all paving will be Streets Levy paving.

Some of the paving in Hamilton includes some roads that won't use levy funds, and no U.S. routes, state routes, or arterial and major collector streets are eligible.

Later this year, for example, the Ohio Department of Transportation will pave Ohio 128 from Hamilton County into Butler County, including Pyramid Hill Boulevard to the new intersection with New London Road and Columbia Bridge. Hamilton will contribute nearly $100,000 toward that project from non-Streets Levy sources.

Eaton Avenue repaving from Park Avenue to the Two Mile Creek Bridge is set for later this year and also won't use levy funds as it's classified as a major corridor.

More paving will also be done in-house, Engle said, as the Public Works Department recently acquired milling and paving machines. Public Works Director Jim Williams said earlier this year his crew will first tackle the mill and fill projects, where they'll grind a couple of inches of old pavement with potholes and replace it with new asphalt.

"We're trying to do this as quick as possible so we can get to as many streets as possible," he told City Council earlier this year.

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PAVED STREETS

Listed are residential and local streets paved using Streets Levy funds since 2021, though some projects included sources in addition to levy funds. There are also parts or all of two dozen more roads not included on this list that did not use any levy funds.

ELMONT AVENUE: Hunt to Western

HURM STREET: Entire

STEPHENS STREET: Entire

S MONUMENT AVENUE: Neilan to Grant

HIGHLAND AVENUE: Armo to Eaton

MADISON AVENUE: St. Clair to Clinton Alley

ALLEN AVENUE: Benninghofen to Madison

NOYES AVENUE: Benninghofen to Madison

BROUGH AVENUE: Benninghofen to Madison

CHASE AVENUE: Benninghofen to Madison

HAYES AVENUE: Pleasant to Madison

CORWIN AVENUE: Zimmerman to River

FREEMAN AVENUE: Hayes to Hooven

RHEA AVENUE: Edgewood to Eaton

EDGEWOOD AVENUE: Park to Rhea

CLEVELAND AVENUE: Shultz to Tabor

JOSHUA COURT: Entire

JEREMY COURT: Entire

CALAN COURT: Entire

TABOR LANE: Entire

THALL DRIVE: Entire

FAIRBORN DRIVE: Timberhill to Thoreau

FAIRBORN COURT: Entire

HEATHROW DRIVE: Entire

HEATHROW COURT: Cul-de-sac

SUNNYBROOK COURT: Entire

SANDERS DRIVE: Eaton to 755 Sanders Drive

LEO DRIVE: Mark to Sanders

HERMAY DRIVE: Mark to Sanders

KELLY COURT: Entire

GRAY AVENUE: Eaton to North D

NORTH E STREET: Gray to Webster

NORTH F STREET: Gray to Webster

DIANA DRIVE: Entire

GREER COURT: Entire

CAMERON PLACE: Entire

ALBERTA DRIVE: Wasserman to Gorham

VICTOR AVENUE: Entire