City Notes: Collaboration brings new opportunities to Whitehall

Kim Maggard
Guest columnist

Over the past decade, Whitehall has seen unprecedented growth, both in terms of new and expanding businesses and in home values throughout our community.

To keep this pace into the future, Whitehall requires continual reinvestment into our built infrastructure (e.g., roads, bridges and water lines).

Kim Maggard is mayor of Whitehall.

Although the city has helped generate new income-tax revenue by fostering a more vibrant business community, our list of necessary infrastructure improvements is outpacing our growth in resources. To help close this gap, the city actively pursues opportunities to work with our federal, state and regional partners to leverage our resources, with the goal of bringing the best possible improvements and projects to our community.

A perfect example of this can be seen in the major intersection improvement project coming soon to the corner of East Broad Street and Hamilton Road. For years, this intersection has been flagged by the city and our partners as a source of both frustration and, frankly, safety concerns. The intersection has been named as one of the most dangerous for traffic accidents in the region by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and in the top 100 most dangerous in the state by the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Having identified the intersection as a priority, the city worked with our engineers at EMH&T to design meaningful improvements, such as adding dedicated turn lanes, lengthening lanes and replacing sidewalks and curb ramps. Such a project, however, came with a price tag of more than $10 million, which is more than three times the city’s combined spending on road improvements over the past five years. In other words: given our finite resources and competing priorities, it could take the city more than a decade to save for such a comprehensive road-improvement project.

This is where the true value of collaboration and partnerships comes to light. To make the project possible, the city applied for and was awarded attributable funds from MORPC in 2018, and last year, ODOT awarded the city Highway Safety Program funds, in part due to the safety concerns the intersection poses.

Combined, these awards totaled more than $9 million toward the project. To make up the difference, the city partnered with EMH&T to apply for Ohio Public Works Commission funding, from which the city was awarded a $1.4 million grant for the project.

Related story:Whitehall adds more federal funding to fix Broad-Hamilton intersection

With nearly $11 million committed – none of which will come directly from the city of Whitehall –we can’t wait to get to work.

Once completed in 2023, the improvements are anticipated to reduce traffic accidents by a third and decrease wait times at the intersection for motorists by nearly a minute.

With this project fully funded, the city’s 2021 budget includes over $1.7 million to fund street and bridge projects in our neighborhoods throughout the community.

And the good news and our collaborative efforts don’t end there.

With the major redevelopment project coming soon to the northeast corner of East Broad Street and Hamilton Road, the city took the initiative to submit not one, but two OPWC grant applications for infrastructure in the area. And for the first time in our history, not only were two applications submitted in one funding cycle (representing a major planning and engineering effort), but both requests were approved.

Whereas the first project will improve the intersection itself, the second will prepare the old condominium site for the future redevelopment by replacing old roadways, sidewalks and sewers, and it will add a multiuse path and new traffic signals, allowing for safe and easy access for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.

Other major partners are playing their part to support Whitehall’s future growth at this redevelopment, too.

As of January, the city has been awarded $3.2 million from the OPWC, in addition to $1 million from the Central Ohio Community Improvement Corp. for site demolition and $500,000 from Ohio capital budgets to help integrate the development into the adjacent 80-acre Whitehall Community Park. Our efforts don’t end there, with multiple other funding requests to other state and local partners pending. Stay tuned for more on this major project as plans are shared later this spring.

Thank you to our partners and to our dedicated staff members for making this high level of collaboration across organizations possible. Both projects will bring endless new opportunities to the Whitehall community.

Kim Maggard is mayor of Whitehall.