Over the last year or two I’ve written a few articles about the Union Centre Boulevard Divergent Diamond Interchange (DDI) improvement from initial township discussions, to funding, to construction and to completion.

This will be my final article on the DDI because we’ve reached “the icing on the cake” which are the hardscape and landscape improvements on each of the four on-off ramps to be completed spring of 2022.

The process started at the April 13th Board meeting when the Community Services Department requested permission to “advertise Union Centre Boulevard DDI Landscape Project (CIP# 821)” in order to obtain bids. Two bidders responded and the sealed bids were opened by the Community Services Department on May 25th. After reviewing the bids, Benchmark Land Management LLC was determined the lowest and most responsive bidder.

Then at the June 8th Trustee Board Meeting, the Trustees voted unanimously to approve Agenda Items 9 and 10 which funded the construction and gave the go ahead to begin. The two motions follow:

Motion to accept bid and approve contract with Benchmark Land Management LLC for the Union Centre Boulevard DDI Landscape Project per the specifications as advertised, not to exceed $2,673,856.95 from TIF  funds; and, authorize Township Administrator to execute said contract and all other necessary documents to effectuate the project (CIP# 821).

Motion to accept proposal from Kleingers & Associates, Inc. as construction manager for the Union Centre Boulevard DDI Landscape Project; and, authorize payment to said agency not to exceed $39,675.00; and, authorize Township Administrator to make non-substantive changes with Law Director approval and execute said agreement (CIP# 821)

So, Benchmark Land Management will do the work and Kleingers & Associates will manage the project, and it’s noteworthy, that both of these companies are located right here in West Chester!

In an interview with Denise Callahan, Journal News, she asked the question about the price tag, she wrote:
“Trustee Mark Welch said the largest cost is for the one-time expense of the “hardscape” portion of the project including decorative stonework, retaining walls, monument signs and other permanent structures that will adorn the bridge and four on-off ramps. The rest is for trees, plantings and seasonal flowers”.

“It does sound like a lot, but most of it is a one-time cost and it’s one and done,” Welch said. “And this is our entryway to West Chester so we want to improve this to the point that it is of the same kind as the DDI itself.  This is an exceptional job that the township and the Butler County Engineers did, it’s a piece of artwork really and we want to make sure the landscape matches the DDI.”

As mentioned in Agenda Item 9 above, the project will cost $2.7 million and be paid for using the Union Centre Blvd TIF (which are taxes collected from businesses in the TIF district, not residential tax dollars), but what’s not mentioned is that the Township budgeted $4 million dollars for the landscaping. Even though there were only two bidders, the bidding process worked and saved the township about $1.3 million!

The earth moving, concrete and hardscaping have already begun, and the large trees and shrubs will be planted in the fall. The flowering plants will be planted next spring. The full effect of the plantings will not be experienced for about five years until all the plants mature.

The Union Centre Blvd DDI landscaping will complement the unique ‘Clock Tower’ highway bridge fencing. The vandal fence is constructed of stainless steel and features clocks set to times that are significant to West Chester. One clock is set to 5:13 which is our local area code. Two others set at 6:23 and 8:00, which when converted to military times 18:23 and 20:00, respectively, represent the year West Chester (Union Twp) was formed and the year the township changed its name from Union Twp to West Chester Township.

Larry Burks, Township Administrator said it best, “The aesthetics of the community are critical to retaining West Chester’s standing as an outstanding place to live and do business. We want our residents to feel great pride for their community and we want businesses to know their investment in the community is valued.”

The Union Centre Blvd DDI Interchange is not only the gateway of West Chester, but also Butler County. It is essentially our township “welcome mat and curb appeal”, demonstrating that West Chester is a premier community and represents the character and business friendly attitude of the township.

Final note, for those that have a hard time with the price tag – did you know that the investment has a nice ROI that can be calculated? Currently about 150,000 cars travel under the overpass per day. With just 2 people per car, that’s 300,000 impressions every day. Did you know that a single highway billboard can cost between $10,000 and $30,000 per month? And that’s just a tiny billboard on one side of the highway. Imagine what a corporation would spend monthly for the right to “brand” their corporation and products using an entire interchange! And that wouldn’t include their initial fee for ‘naming rights’!

My point is, “You can’t buy that kind of good will and branding – it’s PRICELESS”! And without even thinking about it, West Chester Township has done it. Our Union Centre Blvd DDI interchange is an invitation for people and corporations around the world to locate in West Chester “Where Families Grow and Business’s Prosper”.