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FAQs

The Butler County Engineer's Office receives many inquiries each week from the public via this web site and telephone. While usually project or problem-specific, there are often common themes that recur in many questions and comments.

We have addressed some of these frequently asked questions below. If you don't see an answer to something that's been on your mind, please contact us with your inquiry and it may be added to this page.

Glossary - For our glossary of engineering and frequently used terms here on www.bceo.org, click or scroll to the lower portion of this page.


Q1: Why don't you maintain all roads in the county?
Q2: Don't you occasionally perform projects on state routes?
Q3: How many more accidents will it take to finally get this road or that intersection improved?
Q4: I pay taxes. Why can't you just fix my road?
Q5: Why is funding such a problem?
Q6: If the money is available for a particular project, why does it take so long to get the project built?
Q7: Why does it take some projects so long to get started once design plans are complete?
Q8: OK, so the project is under construction. But why is it taking so long?
Q9: Why can't you lower the speed limit on my road? How are speed limits determined?
Q10: Why can't you install traffic signals at an intersection or turn it into a four-way stop to make it safer ?
Q11: Why does it seem like more money is being spent on projects in the eastern half of the County versus the western half?
Q12: What is the difference between a public road and a private road?
Q13: What is the difference between a dedicated road and an accepted road?
Q14: Our school levy failed and now they're cutting busing. The roads within a mile of the schools are going to be a mess. What can you do about it?
Q15: What do you do when private property is needed for roadway improvements? Do you use eminent domain?
Q16: Does the Engineer's Office assign addresses and how is this done?
Q17: Does the Engineer's Office repair railroad crossings? Why does it take so long to get a bad crossing fixed?
Q18: Does pre-treating the roads with salt brine before a winter storm really work?
Q19: How do you inform the public of upcoming road closures?
Q20: How are roadway detours determined? Why doesn't the Engineer's Office detour traffic onto smaller roads?
Q21: Instead of sending motorists on long detours why don't you build a temporary bridge or road around the project?
Q22: There is so much road construction I can't get from here to there. Why does it seem like everything is closed simultaneously?
Q23: Why couldn't you wait until school is out for the summer to start this project and close the road? It is causing havoc for the school buses and parents trying to get their children to school.
Q24: What can be done about the narrow railroad underpasses through which many County and township roads must squeeze?
Q25: Can you explain the address numbering system and layout?


Q1: Why don't you maintain all roads in the county?

A: The Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Section 5543.01 states that the county engineer and his staff are responsible for the "construction, reconstruction, maintenance, and repair of all bridges and highways within his county that are under the jurisdiction of the board of county commissioners." This is known as the County road network. There are four distinct roadway systems in Ohio:

State: The Ohio Department of Transportation has responsibility for the maintenance and upgrade of State and U.S. Federal highways. Examples -- Interstate 75, U.S. 27, Ohio 73. All intersections along state-maintained highways are also the responsibility of the State.
County: Each county in Ohio is responsible for its own network of roads that fall under the jurisdiction of the county commissioners. Examples -- Tylersville Road, Jacksonburg Road, Stillwell Beckett Road. For a complete list of all BCEO-maintained roads, click here.
Township: Each board of township trustees is responsible for its township's road system. Examples -- Beckett Ridge Boulevard (West Chester Twp), Bridgeton Manor Court (Liberty Twp), McCoy Road (Reily Twp). Bridges on the township systems are the full responsibility of the county.
Municipalities: Cities and villages have responsibility for the streets and alleys within their corporation limits. Examples -- Breiel Boulevard (Middletown), Main Street (Hamilton), Campus Avenue (Oxford). Some bridges within municipalities are the responsibility of the county. 

The ORC also states that the county engineer's office is responsible for the "construction, reconstruction, resurfacing, or improvement of roads by boards of township trustees..." This means that the county engineer serves as the engineer for the townships and their network of roadways as well. That is why the BCEO works with the trustees on the planning and engineering of their projects.

Q2: Don't you occasionally perform projects on state routes?

A: It is not uncommon for us to spend County money in a good faith effort to expedite State projects. We have worked with the Ohio Department of Transportation on their roads, often agreeing to provide design and engineering plans to speed up the process of getting a project to construction. Unfortunately, the County roadway infrastructure alone has become so overburdened with traffic and safety issues it is becoming increasingly more difficult to justify spending local County money on a State project versus putting the money into our own system.

Q3: How many more accidents will it take to finally get this road or that intersection improved?

A: We can engineer a solution to any traffic problem that exists, but finding the necessary funds to build the solution is another matter. Obtaining the money to fix congested roads, dangerous intersections, and aging bridges is the most difficult task with which the BCEO must contend. Projects are prioritized based on traffic and capacity issues, accident history, and available financing. There are many projects the County, State, and smaller local governments recognize need to be completed. But finding the money to accomplish these capital improvements is extremely difficult. One of our most important tasks is to seek out and utilize every funding source available. Our experts work hard to leverage as much outside state and federal grant money as is realistically possible.

Sometimes a serious accident occurs at an intersection which has virtually no accident history and we are asked why something can't or hasn't been done. As previously stated, we have to prioritize projects based on statistics. While that may sound cold it is all we have to go by since nobody can magically predict where the next serious accident will occur. Every road and intersection has the potential to be the site of an accident. We simply can't throw money at every single road and intersection in the County, especially those which have virtually no accident history. Our budget won't allow for what in some cases would be a very costly over-engineering of the entire roadway system. This would not only be impossible but would be an irresponsible use of taxpayers' money and still would not eliminate accidents resulting from driver error, which constitute the majority of all accidents. While we strive hard to make Butler County's roads safe for the motoring public, the issue of driver responsibility, frankly, cannot be brushed aside. We can engineer only up to the point of human error.

Engineers can build the safest road or intersection possible based on modern design standards, but one can never completely eliminate the factors of driver error and inclement weather. Excessive speed, inattention, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, blinding sun, snow and rain can all contribute to accidents. Your County Engineer encourages motorists to drive safely, respect the rules and other drivers, and always wear a seat belt. Most roads are safe if one drives responsibly and obeys the signs and speed limits. For safe driving tips, please click here.

Q4: I pay taxes. Why can't you just fix my road?

A: Funds for road and bridge improvements are generated primarily from license plate fees and gasoline taxes. The Engineer's Office receives no money from property taxes or the County's general fund. Therefore, our income is relatively limited so we are forced to do more with less. For a full overview of "where the money comes from," click here.

Q5: Why is funding such a problem?

A: Although Butler County's population is increasing, revenues from gas taxes and license plate fees -- our primary sources of income -- have remained relatively flat. Moreover, Butler County's status as one of the State's largest counties makes it a donor county. When revenues are distributed by the State of Ohio, Butler County actually gets back less than it puts in. A portion of our gas tax money goes to smaller counties that can't generate adequate revenues due to their limited populations.

In a way, we are a victim of our own progress. As noted above, the BCEO receives no money from local property taxes. The explosive growth and economic development taking place in Butler County helps build the commercial tax base for our communities and schools but the Engineer's Office receives none of this money. And yet the new roads we've built to accommodate this growth and facilitate progress drives up our maintenance costs substantially. Increased road miles, additional lanes, and more traffic signals means more salting and plowing, paving and striping, signing, guardrail, bridge and culvert maintenance. Our cost to upgrade and maintain the roadway infrastructure is also subject to inflation. Each year we pay more for blacktop, salt, materials, and labor.

Another important funding factor is that Butler County's commercial and residential growth generates more congestion problems and safety issues. This means the scope of many projects is larger than ever before, thereby generating higher engineering and construction costs for the BCEO.

Q6: If the money is available for a particular project, why does it take so long to get the project built?

A: In some cases, state and federal grant money is approved and available but not programmed (or budgeted) until a specific year. Moreover, the use of federal funds almost always requires that an Environmental Assessment be performed to determine a project's impact on the surrounding environs, including wetlands, wildlife, archaeological features, historical structures, and the local economy. In some cases, the initial assessment may indicate that a complete Environmental Impact Study is required, which can be very costly and time-consuming.

It is also important to remember that all projects require basic planning and engineering. Safety and common sense dictate that new bridges, roadway improvements, and intersection upgrades be designed by qualified and licensed civil engineers. This of course involves time and careful engineering. The bigger the project, the more extensive the design phase will usually be.

Q7: Why does it take some projects so long to get started once design plans are complete?

A: It is important to understand why the government cannot move in with bulldozers and start work right away. There are many steps designed to protect our citizens which must be completed before construction can proceed. For example, after design plans have been finalized, we must acquire right-of-way. When private property must be acquired, there is a process which must be followed to compensate the property owner. Purchase of private land usually proceeds smoothly but occasionally an agreement cannot be reached. The government may acquire the land through eminent domain and proceed with the project, but not until a settlement has been reached. The concept of eminent domain gives the government the right to use private land, but this is strictly based upon a fair assessment of its value. Sometimes fair market value must be determined through the courts and a trial. Unfortunately, this scenario can slow down a project.

There are also numerous above-ground and underground utilities which must typically be relocated before any project can begin. Easements and permits must be obtained prior to relocating utilities. Again, it is a lengthy and time-consuming process to move telephone lines, TV cable, water and gas mains so as to not interrupt service to thousands of homes and businesses. Gas mains pose a particular hazard to workers digging in their vicinity. Unless these are carefully located and moved before digging, an explosion could result in the death and injury of many workers and citizens near the construction area. Once all right-of-way has been acquired and all affected utilities have been relocated, construction can begin.

Q8: OK, so the project is under construction. But why is it taking so long?

A: There are several factors that the neither the BCEO nor the construction contractor can control. The most obvious of these is weather -- a very important factor in the road construction business. Rain can hamper progress even on a sunny day. When there is earthwork to be performed at a project site, the ground must be dry enough to work. Several days of sunshine may be required to dry a project site and then, unfortunately, sometimes it rains again.

Delivery of materials can be delayed. For example, a new bridge may be nearly complete, but the guardrail cannot be installed because it has not arrived. Safety factors and the law prohibit us from opening a bridge to traffic without guardrail.

Q9: Why can't you lower the speed limit on my road? How are speed limits determined?

A: There are very strict rules which govern the posting of speed limits. The Engineer's Office is not at liberty to randomly raise and lower speed limits, as these are strictly determined by the State of Ohio Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, per the Ohio Revised Code. While this may sound rigid, the State has implemented these rules to provide uniformity throughout the Ohio which in the long run makes driving safer for all motorists. In the unincorporated areas for which we the County have responsibility, every speed limit change must be approved by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). A speed study must be performed and submitted to ODOT in order to determine if a road or stretch of roadway meets specific speed limit warrants. As part of this study, accident history and roadside development are reviewed. While a speed study may result in the lowering of a posted speed limit, enforcement is usually the issue, not necessarily the speed limit itself.

County and Township roads have different parameters than state routes and roadways located within a municipal corporation. Any platted subdivision, residential or commercial, is subject to a 25 mph speed limit, school zones 20 mph. All other county and township roadways are statutory 55 mph until a speed study is completed and approved by ODOT.

A speed study is based on five factors:

  1. Highway development -- The number of access drives and intersections along the studied stretch of roadway;
  2. Roadway features -- Lane widths, shoulder widths, and geometric characteristics;
  3. Accident history -- Accidents along the studied stretch are reviewed. Only speed-related type accidents are included, not accidents caused by animals, weather, or congestion;
  4. 85th percentile speed -- The speed at which 85 percent of the vehicles are traveling;
  5. The pace of vehicles -- The 10 mph range of speeds containing the greatest number of observed speeds.

Ultimately, speeding is an enforcement issue. As posted speed limits are appropriate per state regulations, it is the responsibility of local law enforcement agencies to enforce the speed limits and, of course, motorists must be responsible for driving safely and observing all laws and traffic control devices.

Click here for an overview of the BCEO's Speed Limit Study Process.

Please follow this link to ODOT's web site for a good explanation of speed zones and Ohio speed limits.

Q10: Why can't you install traffic signals at an intersection or turn it into a four-way stop to make it safer?

A: Many times following an accident we receive urgent requests to fix an intersection by installing signals or turning it into a four-way stop. However, a reactionary and emotional response following an accident would not necessarily be wise. As engineers representing the public we can't react and perform projects, large or small, based on emotional pleas from citizens which understandably we see quite a lot. We have to carefully listen to the public we serve while balancing a response with what is legal, financially prudent, and ultimately, with what provides a safe driving environment for motorists.

Like speed limits, there are very strict rules which govern the utilization of traffic control devices. We must perform an objective study that assesses traffic volumes, accident history, and other factors. The BCEO cannot randomly install signals, stop signs, or any other traffic control device unless certain warrants, or criteria, are met. To do so is illegal. These warrants are strictly dictated by the state and justifiably so. There has to be a standard uniform application of traffic control devices to prevent driver confusion. While some intersections may seem problematic, we must evaluate them in an objective manner using factual information and sound engineering judgment. It would be fiscally irresponsible to spend money on improvements that are not necessarily justified.

Sometimes a four-way stop may seem like a logical solution, yet there are circumstances in which this can actually create a more dangerous situation than might already exist, resulting in more, not fewer, accidents.

To reiterate, we strive hard to make Butler County's roads safe for the motoring public. That is our job. However, we can engineer only up to the point of human error. Driver responsibility is an important component of safe motoring. Engineers can build the safest road or intersection possible based on modern design standards, but one can never completely eliminate the factors of driver error and inclement weather. Installing more stop signs or adding signals does not guarantee that motorists will always obey them. Excessive speed, inattention, driving under the influence, blinding sun and snow and rain can all contribute to accidents.

With that in mind, it is important to understand that we do closely monitor all roads, bridges, and intersections for which we have responsibility per the Ohio Revised Code. Safety, congestion issues, and accident data are reviewed with frequency to ensure that we stay on top of any developing problem areas. Some areas are more accident-prone than others and we hear demands to improve each of them. In many cases improvements are already being planned, designed, or are slated for construction.

It is not our intent to diminish the urgency of citizen requests that come into our Office. We'd like to fix every single problem right away, but realistically we have to prioritize based on traffic and capacity issues, accident history, and of course, available financing.

Q11: Why does it seem that more money is being spent on projects in the eastern half of the County versus the western half?

A: There tend to be more large scale projects in the eastern half because that is where the needs are. This is due to the explosive growth taking place along the I-75 corridor and the surrounding areas. This growth places huge demands on the roadway system. Consequently, there are more congestion and capacity related projects there; ie, projects which add lanes or involve construction of new roads designed to accommodate more vehicles. These types of projects require more funding.The western half of the County is growing at a slower rate and the traffic demands are not nearly the same. Most projects there involve bridge and culvert replacements, intersection modifications, and resurfacing. These tend to be less expensive overall.

A look at our Current Projects page will show that the actual number of projects is fairly evenly distributed. It varies from year to year and in some years one township may have more than another, but it balances out over time. Moreover, projects in some townships like West Chester, Liberty, or Fairfield, may actually be funded through their own TIFs or private developers. The County simply manages the engineering and construction.

The BCEO's first priority is safety -- safe roads, safe bridges. We are very aware of the perception issues by the western half of the County regarding the eastern half. We look at where the needs are and try to be fair to everyone. But the fact is there are very few roads in the western half that are over capacity (congested) in the same way that many are in the eastern half. This does not mean the western half is being ignored or slighted in any way. It just means that the needs are different.

Q12: What is the difference between a public road and a private road?

A: A public road is one that has been officially accepted by a governing agency -- city, township, county, state -- for public use. It has been recorded in the agency road records as a public road and is therefore maintained by that agency. Maintenance includes snow removal, paving and repairs, and any necessary upgrades.

Private roads have NOT been accepted as public roadways and are therefore not recorded in any agency's road records. Here in Butler County, some private roadways are on file with the BCEO's Tax Map Department for reference purposes only, but these roads are not maintained by any public agency. Maintenance responsibility of a private road falls upon the property owners who live on the road. If a neighborhood homeowner's association exists, the association usually takes responsibility.

A developer has the option to construct a road as public or private. A road typically remains private if the developer chooses not to build it to public standards. If a road does not meet these standards, it will not be accepted as a public road.

In some cases a private road is never filed with our Tax Map Department and therefore it is impossible for us to have any documentation of its existence. We encourage all developers of private roads to file documentation with our Tax Map Department so that these roads can be placed in the 911 emergency system and shown on our Official Transportation Map.

Q13: What is the difference between a dedicated road and an accepted road?

A: When reference is made to a dedicated road, technically speaking, that reference is to a dedicated right-of-way -- land that has been reserved, or dedicated, for construction of a roadway that will eventually be accepted and maintained as a public road. Once this road is constructed, it is not accepted as a public road by the local governing agency until the developer has finished building the homes or businesses around it. Until then, the developer is responsible for keeping the roads free and clear of snow and debris.

Once all development is complete, any necessary repairs to the road can be made by the developer and then a final layer of asphalt is laid. At this point, the developer must continue to maintain the road for one year before it can be accepted as an official public road.

Q14: Our school levy failed and now they're cutting busing. The roads within a mile of the schools are going to be a mess. What can you do about it?

A: Concern about increased congestion on local roads when a local school district reduces bus service is understandable. Safety is a concern for all of us. It is what drives most projects here at the Engineer's Office.

Implementing immediate upgrades such as major roadway and intersection improvements, sidewalks, traffic signals, or speed limit reductions, is not feasible in a short period of time. Roadway projects are based on long-range planning, which includes local growth and development, traffic counts and traffic patterns, accident data, and funding availability. When it comes to long-range planning and budgeting limited funds for roadway projects, it is impossible to predict and measure what a local school community may do in the short and long term. School levies are fickle and their impact on a local community can vary widely within relatively short time periods. For example, if a local levy suddenly passes, the school district may likely reinstate bus service, alleviating the traffic issues in the vicinity of their schools.

Some things to keep in mind with regards to traffic control:

  1. Some have suggested reducing speed limits to 20 mph on all roads within a one mile radius of schools on school days. This is not only impractical but illegal. Speed limits cannot be lowered arbitrarily. Speed zones must be warranted and adhere to the Ohio Revised Code. Only roadways that front a school may be signed for school zone speed limit. The Ohio Department of Transportation must also approve all requests for warranted speed zones.
  2. We have been asked to install additional traffic control devices, such as stop signs and traffic signals. These however must be warranted. A traffic signal is the most restrictive of all traffic control devices. Even if a traffic signal is warranted, it still requires time to design and money to construct. The minimum cost of a traffic signal is between $75,000 and $100,000 to design and install. Design of a traffic signal takes an average of three to four months to design.
  3. Some have also suggested that we immediately install new sidewalks along all roads near a school when a school district threatens to reduce busing services. Planning and construction of sidewalks is a major undertaking. Land must be surveyed, sidewalks must be designed, existing drainage features must be addressed, right-of-way must be acquired, existing utilities must be relocated, and funding must be secured. The cost of installing sidewalks runs approximately $5 per square foot. This cost does not include the cost for right-of-way, utility relocation, or modification to existing drainage features.

Since projects are long-range undertakings, we cannot possibly plan around local school levy failures and school board decisions. The BCEO is responsible for roads and bridges in 13 townships that are served by 15 different school districts here in Butler County. And as noted, we are also restricted by traffic control measures set forth by the State of Ohio. When school levies fail, your primary issues really are with your local school district, not necessarily with the County or local governing agency. However, it is always our hope that a reasonable settlement is attained by the school district and its citizens with regards to a school tax levy.

Q15: What do you do when private property is needed for roadway improvements? Do you use eminent domain?

A: The issue of eminent domain seems to be in the news a lot, mostly in a less than positive light. But when it comes to roadway safety improvements eminent domain can result in a win-win situation for everybody as it is designed to protect private property owners while allowing public projects to proceed for the public safety.

It is the County Engineer's duty to build and maintain safe roads and bridges for the motoring public. This involves planning ahead, engineering, designing, and constructing improvements before the local roadway network becomes structurally and functionally obsolete. Certain projects such as roadway widenings may necessitate the acquisition of right-of-way from private property owners.

While we design for the least amount of impact to nearby properties, a roadway project's integrity must not be jeopardized. We obviously do not design a road or bridge project in haphazard fashion. All aspects of a project are taken into account including the effects on local properties. Everything possible is done to ensure the least amount of impact while utilizing safe, modern design standards that will result in a safe and efficient roadway for the general public.

Sometimes however a property owner may not be receptive to a road or bridge project. This usually involves one of two issues: 1) the property owner does not agree with the project design and its impact on their property, or 2) the property owner does not agree with the amount of compensation that is being offered for acquisition of all or part of their property.

We have a public responsibility to improve traffic flow and roadway safety for the public at large, but in doing so, local property owners may feel as if they are being negatively impacted. It is a delicate and sometimes difficult balancing act between doing what is required for public safety versus the rights and wellbeing of the individual property owner who lives along a proposed road improvement. Quite frankly, we at the Engineer's Office sometimes find ourselves in a no-win situation. If we don't construct a much needed road project we are neglecting our public duty and become subject to public criticism. Should we do the project and it becomes necessary to use eminent domain we are characterized as the big, bad government.

The good news is that we negotiate for hundreds of right-of-way parcels a year with very few problems. We work in good faith with all property owners, meeting with them as necessary to explain a project and its effects on their property. We listen carefully to property owner concerns, make suggestions, and even modify the design within reason. We will not however risk public safety by compromising sound engineering principles and safe design standards.

When acquiring rights-of-way for a project, property is not "taken." A fair market value is offered to the property owner as just compensation. This estimate is determined through a formal assessment of the property's worth, and in the case of federally funded projects or appropriations an independent certified appraiser is utilized. Any property owner however has the right to dispute the compensation amount. This is when the concept of eminent domain is exercised. Eminent domain protects the property owner's rights to just compensation, which is the fair market value of what the parcel is actually worth plus allowances for damages to the residue if any. Eminent domain allows public projects to proceed for the public safety but protects the individual property owner for just compensation.

It is critical to understand that we have a public responsibility to offer fair market value. Anything more would call into question our responsible handling of taxpayers' money. The accusation would be that we are giving public money away. Our duty is to protect the taxpayers while being fair to the property owner.

Government agencies including this one have been unfairly characterized as unresponsive or accused of doing the minimum to help a property owner. Nothing could be further from the truth. In a handful of cases a property owner may simply be unwilling to negotiate in a reasonable manner. But our staff of professionals works very hard to create a win-win situation for the property owner and the general public whom we represent. We always keep in mind that we work for all citizens of Butler County -- for the individual property owner and for the public at large.

Q16: Does the Engineer's Office assign addresses and how is this done?

A: The BCEO's Tax Map Department assigns addresses in the unincorporated areas of Butler County. This would include all of those new subdivisions and commercial side streets popping up almost daily in townships like Fairfield, Liberty, and West Chester.

Some have asked why often times the address numbers jump in increments greater than two. One factor to consider is that traditional street blocks are less common in the unincorporated parts of the county than in the cities. New subdivision streets out in the townships tend to curve and meander a lot. So that is why the 100, 102, 104 system does not necessarily work.

The assignment of addresses is measured off of a Countywide grid. There are 600 numbers per mile in the grid. Our Tax Map Department divides this out to get a number for every nine feet. There are other factors that also influence the assignment of addresses. Adjacent address numbers may differ by a value of four or more to allow for possible future zoning law changes. For example, additional addresses need to be available if for some reason a lot would be split and additional housing or business units inserted. These new addresses would need to be in sequential order with the rest of the addresses on the street. Another issue encountered with increasing frequency is that cell phone companies purchase or rent space on certain properties to install towers. These towers are required to be associated with their own address, so allowances need to be made for the assignment of a new address in these cases.

There are several factors considered when assigning addresses and it's not an exact science. Every situation is a little different.

Q17: Does the Engineer's Office repair railroad crossings? Why does it take so long to get a bad crossing fixed?

A: The railroads own all crossings and are responsible for their maintenance and upkeep. When crossings become bumpy and worn out, the BCEO works with the railroads to expedite repairs but has no authority to actually perform the repairs. If the railroad does not fix a bad crossing in a timely manner, we do everything legally possible to get the railroad to address the problem, but unfortunately state and federal law provides local agencies with very little recourse against the railroads.

Whenever the BCEO receives a complaint about a bad crossing we are usually already aware of it and have spoken with the offending railroad. We do suggest that citizens also contact the railroad themselves as well as the PUCO - Railroad Division (Public Utilities Commission of Ohio), which has regulatory authority over the railroads. If the crossing involves a city or state-maintained road, citizens should register their complaint with the city or ODOT, District 8, who will then contact the appropriate railroad.

Q18: Does pre-treating the roads with salt brine before a winter storm really work?

A: The application of salt brine helps prevent the initial bonding of snow and frozen precipitation to roadway surfaces. It provides melting in the same manner as traditional salt granules, but sooner. This immediate melting action reduces early accumulations and allows road crews to get a jump on clearing the roads.

Studies have proven that applying liquid brine before snow or ice has bonded to the pavement can be ten times more effective than spreading granular salt on top of snow and ice after the precipitation has already bonded to the pavement. It takes one ton of salt to make 1,000 gallons of brine, resulting in less granular salt usage. Since pre-treating with brine makes subsequent applications of granular salt work more effectively, twice as much can be accomplished with the same amount of salt. This results in a direct cost-savings to the taxpayers.

The Butler County Engineer's Office has been utilizing salt brine to pre-treat roads since 2003. Our primary goal is to keep roads safe and clear for the motoring public. But if we can save our citizens money by doing it more efficiently then hopefully that's a bonus.

If minor snows have caused more problems in recent years, perhaps it is due to the fact that our area doesn't get nearly as much snow as in years past, nor as often. Therefore we may be less accustomed to driving in it. This might be a good time to remind motorists to drive cautiously in all winter weather situations and be especially careful and courteous when driving near salt trucks and snow plows.

Q19: How do you inform the public of upcoming road closures?

A: The BCEO puts a high priority on getting project and road closing information out to the public. Whenever we plan to close a road a news release is faxed to all local media. Of course, there is no guarantee that they will publish or air the information that we provide. That's why this web site is your best source. All County road closings, openings, and traffic advisories are posted on our Road Closings page along with locator maps. We also occasionally list road closings in other jurisdictions -- ie, cities such as Hamilton, Fairfield, etc., as well as closings by the Ohio Department of Transportation -- if the information is provided to us. Motorists may also find additional project info on our Current Projects page.

We also post advance notification signs at the site of all upcoming closures. These signs indicate the road closing date and length, and direct motorists to our web site for full details. Click here to see what one of these signs looks like.

Additionally, copies of all road closing news releases are faxed to the locally affected school district so that plans can be made for bus routes, local post offices, police and fire departments, the Butler County Sheriff's Office, and the local governing township, as well as any nearby jurisdictions that may be impacted by the closure.

If a closure is going to be lengthy, we also deliver notification letters to local residents and businesses that are located within close proximity to the project area. These notification letters, which explain the closure and project in full detail, are also posted on our Road Closings page.

Q20: How are roadway detours determined? Why doesn't the Engineer's Office detour traffic onto smaller roads?

A: Much thought and planning goes into every road closure and any necessary detours. We must consider the impact on all local and surrounding roads since most County roads are major arteries. Local roads usually will not suffice as adequate detour routes for County arterials which typically carry much higher traffic volumes. Any time we close a County road we are obligated to detour traffic onto County or State roads of equal or greater capacity. We cannot detour traffic down to smaller township roads and streets that are not designed to handle large amounts of traffic.

Routing high volumes of County road traffic onto smaller subdivision streets, through shopping or entertainment districts, or onto less adequate township roads is not practical, could result in traffic jams, and would create an unsafe situation for motorists and pedestrians. While the Engineer's Office understands that some local motorists find their own ways around detoured project areas, our official detours must follow higher capacity County and State roads.

Q21: Instead of sending motorists on long detours why don't you build a temporary bridge or road around the project?

A: Many roadway improvement projects can be built while maintaining thru traffic. But in some cases this is not possible and we've no choice but to close the road. In such cases, all possibilities are considered as we consult with local governments, schools, and businesses about the impact of a road closure. As nice as it would be to build a temporary bridge around a bridge replacement project for example, this is an extremely costly undertaking. The price would be nearly as much as the main bridge project itself. It would therefore double the cost of the overall project.

We don't believe that is a wise use of the taxpayers' money, nor do we even have that kind of revenue to play with. Our road and bridge construction budget is extremely tight and there are many other critical projects that must be constructed for safety and traffic capacity reasons. It would be irresponsible for us to spend potentially a half million dollars on a temporary bridge when we could use that money to replace an aging, unsafe bridge somewhere else. We understand decisions like this may not be very popular with some motorists who are temporarily inconvenienced. But we must balance our decisions based on what's best for the public at large and the most efficient use of everyone's tax dollars.

Q22: There is so much road construction I can't get from here to there. Why does it seem like everything is closed simultaneously?

A: This is a common complaint during road construction season. Commuting times increase and so does congestion because roads are closed and detours are in place. Southeast Butler County bears the brunt of this because it is growing so rapidly and there are many projects that need to be done for safety reasons and to facilitate better traffic flow in the long run. Problem is, in the short run the associated construction boggles things up.

Here in Ohio we don't have the luxury of a long construction season like in the south. Weather issues limit the period of time and type of construction that can be performed. Another factor is that funding is a significant hurdle which must be addressed for every needed project. Many times there are state or federal grants involved for certain road and bridge projects and we must take advantage of those grants when they become available or risk losing that money. Moreover, there are many different agencies responsible for various projects --- the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), the Butler County Transportation Improvement District (TID), the townships, the cities, as well as the Butler County Engineer's Office (BCEO). As much as all jurisdictional agencies try to coordinate road and bridge projects, there is not an ideal solution because we are all dealing with the same funding, weather, and urgent safety issues outlined above.

Everything possible is done to alleviate the impacts of road construction on motorists. Engineers do in fact take into account the size of a project, impact on the local roadways, and proximity to other projects when scheduling for construction. But again, urgent safety factors, weather, and funding availability all come into play.

Upgrading the infrastructure is a way of life in a growing county like Butler. Improving your commute for the long run can mean some short term frustration. Motorists are encouraged to exercise patience and good judgment while driving.

Q23: Why couldn't you wait until school is out to start this project and close the road? It is causing havoc for the school buses and parents trying to get their children to school.

A: This is another common complaint during road construction season. There are many projects that we do in fact hold off until the three summer months when most local schools are not in session. However, it is not possible to squeeze every road and bridge project into this short time frame. That would result in even more simultaneous road closures with worse traffic jams than what motorists already experience. Moreover, many projects require significantly longer than three months to complete. To make matters worse, as noted in Q&A 20 above, we don't have the luxury of a long construction season as they do in the southern states, so here in Ohio our time is already limited, especially when it comes to projects with a lot of dirt work which requires dry conditions.

Prior to closing any road, we notify and coordinate detours and alternate bus routes with all affected school systems. In the event of large scale projects requiring prolonged closures, we typically meet with school officials to plan well in advance of the closure. Coordinating with our local schools ahead of time affords them the opportunity to work with their transportation directors, bus drivers, and parents to arrange any necessary changes to bus routes and scheduling.

Q24: What can be done about the narrow railroad underpasses through which many County and township roads must squeeze?

A: The Butler County Engineer's Office and the townships are currently working with the railroads to study possible solutions. There are several factors which come into play, the most notable being money. The cost for rebuilding just one railroad overpass is estimated at over $10 million. We are exploring some unconventional methods of doing these projects that would bring the cost per overpass down into the $5-6 million range, but that is still a lot of money for one overpass. To fund all of them that truly need to be replaced is not something the railroad can afford, nor can the County or the townships. It is an extremely difficult problem for which there is no easy answer.

Other issues that make this difficult include the logistics of re-routing commercial rail traffic versus building expensive temporary overpasses, the potential loss to the railroads if commercial rail traffic must be diverted, and quite frankly the resolve of the railroads to address the overpass issues period.

As one can see, there is not an easy fix that will happen anytime soon. But we have been spearheading a move to get the railroads thinking about it and are doing everything possible to find a workable solution.

Q25: Can you explain the address numbering system and layout?

A: The BCEO's Tax Map Department oversees this process and assigns new address numbers in all unincorporated parts of the county. To better understand the addressing system, it helps to reference one of our road maps. Opening to one of the pages that shows an individual township you can see small red numbers along each of the section lines. These numbers represent the grid on which our address system is based. There are 600 numbers per mile, depending on whether a road is considerd to be a north-south or an east-west road. Even numbers are on the north or east side of the road, odd numbers to the south and west sides. Of course, no system is fool proof. A road running north can suddenly turn to the east. In such cases we continue along that road with the numbers with which we started, thus keeping the addresses in sequence even though this departs from the grid and can also create odd numbers on the north side of that road.

GLOSSARY

Best Management Practices (BMP) - A schedules of activities, prohibitions of practices, general good housekeeping practices, pollution prevention and educational practices, maintenance procedures, and other management practices to prevent or reduce the discharge of pollutants directly or indirectly to storm water, receiving waters, or storm water conveyance systems. BMPs also include treatment practices, operating procedures, and practices to control site runoff, spillage.

Bridge - A structure with a clear span of ten feet or greater which carries a roadway surface over a gap or obstacle such as a stream, railroad, or another roadway. Bridges can be made of many different types of material, including concrete, steel, cables, composite materials, and any combination of these. Bridge replacements are determined by the age and condition of the structure and are often planned in conjunction with future resurfacing projects.

Bridge Rehabilitation - Repair or replacement of certain components of a bridge. Many parts of the bridge may be in good condition so only certain parts are "rehabilitated" in an effort to extend the life of the structure. Bridge rehabilitation can range from simple re-painting to repair or replacement of the deck, beams, wing walls, abutments, and/or other components.

Bridge Replacement - All components of a bridge structure are replaced. This is usually done when a bridge begins to deteriorate due to natural aging and weathering, rust, crumbling, and other environmental factors. But sometimes a bridge needs to be replaced due to capacity issues. It is still in relatively good condition but is not wide enough or strong enough to carry today's heavier loads and increased traffic volumes.

Calcium Chloride - Because road salt becomes substantially less effective below 20 degrees F, calcium chloride is used to improve its effectiveness at melting snow in colder temperatures. The liquid calcium is sprayed onto the salt granules before they reach the spinner on the back of the truck. For more details, please visit the Snow and Ice Control page.

Catch Basin - An inlet or opening designed to collect rainwater, surface water, sump pump water, swale, and ditch runoff that serves as an entry point to a storm sewer pipe. Referred to also as a drain, storm drain, storm water drain, curb drain, street drain, or inlet.

Chip Seal - A pavement resurfacing treatment in which a thin film of heated asphalt liquid is sprayed on the road surface followed by the placement of small stone aggregates ("chips"). The chips are then compacted to orient the chips for maximum adherence to the asphalt, and excess stone is then swept from the surface. The chip seal method of road resurfacing is about one fifth the cost of a conventional asphalt overlay.

Culvert - A conduit running underneath a road for the purpose of transferring storm water runoff from one side of the road to another. Culverts are technically classified as structures with a clear span of less than ten feet and can be made of different types of material -- there are simple pipe culverts and concrete box culverts. Culvert replacements are like bridges, determined by the age and condition of the structure and are often planned in conjunction with future resurfacing projects.

Curb - A raised barrier vertical or sloped that is adjacent to either a gutter or street edge. Streets are typically lined with a system referred to as curb and gutter while parking lots utilize curb.

Detention Basin - This storm water feature has no permanent pool of water and is known as a dry basin. Similar to a wet pond, this practice provides flood control. The basin fills with water during heavy rains while the outlet structure limits the amount of water leaving the basin. A detention basin qualifies as a BMP (see above).

Ditch Petition - The process by which a landowner or developer may petition the Board of County Commissioners to perform a drainage improvement and assess the cost of the improvement on their property tax. Annual maintenance of the drainage improvement is performed by the County Engineer's Office. Maintenance costs are then recovered through the Ditch Maintenance Fund, as established under the Ditch Petition process.

Easement - A portion of land that has been reserved for a specific purpose. Easements grant entities or property owners the right to construct and maintain facilities within designated areas. There are several different easements; the most common are Utility, Private Drainage, and Public Drainage. Easement records can be found on the subdivision record plat, official record, deed, or agreement in the County Recorders office.

Floodplain - Low lying area adjacent to a creek, stream, or river that experiences occasional or periodic flooding. The Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) classify floodplains into varying levels of flood risk for insurance purposes. Floodplains usually define the limits of a 100-year flood.

Floodway - Channel of a stream plus any adjacent floodplain areas that must be kept free of encroachment so that the 100-year flood discharge can be conveyed without increasing the elevation of flood waters.

Flood Route - Surface swale or ditch used to direct flood waters between houses towards the street, detention basin, or retention pond. A flood route is utilized when the storm drain system becomes overwhelmed during a storm producing heavy runoff.

Funding - Refers to revenue sources. Local funding for the Butler County Engineer's Office comes primarily from gasoline taxes and license plate fees. But these monies are also used as local match money to leverage state and federal grants for our road and bridge projects. Please see Where the Money Comes From and Funding Sources here on our web site for more specific details about funding and revenue.

Gutter - Edge of a street, below the curb, that is designed to drain rainwater runoff from streets, driveways, and parking lots toward a catch basin.

Headwall - Concrete structure that cradles the end of a storm sewer pipe or culvert. A headwall can be referred to as an outlet or outfall.

Home Owner's Association (HOA) - An organization created by a developer of a subdivision with Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) for the purpose of managing their neighborhood. The CC&R may address open space, neighborhood parks, walking paths, retention ponds, detention basins, storm drain system, and other amenities established by the developer that are subject to the statutes of the association. Some associations also regulate the use certain building materials, colors, and residential building design in their CC&Rs.

Impervious Area - Surfaces that do not allow for rainwater to penetrate or be absorbed into the ground, such as a rooftop, driveway, parking lot, sidewalk, or gravel surface.

Intersection Improvement - Upgrade of an existing intersection. This can range from simply widening the turning radii and improving sight distance to adding turn lanes and traffic signals for smoother, safer traffic flow in cases of increased traffic volumes.

Low Flow Gutter - Shallow open channel lined with concrete that is used in areas with constant or intermittent flows within a detention basin, swale, or ditch.

Maintenance Responsibility - Refers to which jurisdiction or agency is responsible for maintaining a road or street; ie, plowing, salting, paving, fixing potholes, widening and improving, etc. There are four levels of roadway maintenance:
State - Federal and state designated roads maintained by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).
County - County designated roads maintained by the Butler County Engineer's Office (BCEO).
Township - Township designated roads maintained by individual townships.
Municipality - Streets and roads within incorporated areas maintained by the cities and villages.
See Question 1 on this page for more details.

Manhole - A structure used in the change of direction and grade of storm sewer pipes.

One-hundred Year Flood - Flood event having a one percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year.

Rain Barrel - A tank which is used to collect and store rainwater runoff from rooftops and house gutters. Property owners can then harvest the stored runoff and water plants during dry periods. This qualifies as a BMP (see above).

Rain Garden - A planted depression that allows runoff from impervious areas or rooftops to be absorbed into the ground. Rain gardens provide infiltration, redistribution of moisture, transpiration, and bioretention. This qualifies as a BMP (see above).

Raised Pavement Markers (RPMs) - These are safety devices spaced along the centerline or edgelines on roads to help drivers see lane markings. They are reflective strips, which come in a variety of colors, with a protective metal casting placed in shallow grooves cut in the pavement. The device's reflective surface enables it to be clearly visible at long distances at night and in rainy weather when pavement markings are hard to see.

Resurfacing - Refers to the improvement of a deteriorated and aging roadway surface. On this web site, the term generally refers to traditional paving, the overlay of new asphalt or "blacktop" on an aging roadway surface. Chip Seal is another less expensive method of resurfacing. See Chip Seal above.

Retention Pond - Sometimes called a wet pond due to its permanent pool, this artificial pond temporarily stores runoff during heavy rains. An outlet structure limits the amount of water leaving the pond, providing flood control. This qualifies as a BMP (see above).

Right-of-Way - Any strip or area of land, including surface, overhead, or underground, granted by deed or easement for construction and maintenance according to designated use; ie, roadway, drainage, etc. The public right-of-way on which a public road lies is usually wider than the actual roadway surface and may extend ten or more feet beyond the edge of the road.

Roadway Improvement - Upgrade of an existing roadway. This can range from widening existing lanes and berms to building additional new lanes and full shoulders.

Roundabout - A circular intersection with design features that promote safe and efficient traffic flow. At roundabouts, vehicles travel counterclockwise around a raised center island, with entering traffic yielding the right-of-way to circulating traffic. Drivers approaching a roundabout must reduce their speeds, look for potential conflicts with vehicles already in the circle, and be prepared to stop for pedestrians and bicyclists. Once in the roundabout, drivers proceed to the appropriate exit, following the guidance provided by traffic signs and pavement markings. Because roundabouts improve the efficiency of traffic flow, they also reduce vehicle emissions and fuel consumption. Locally, there have been two roundabouts installed on major road; Lakota Drive West at Eagle Ridge Drive and Hamilton Mason Road and Liberty Fairfield Road.

Salt (Sodium Chloride) - Road salt, applied by truck-borne spreaders to melt snow on roadway surfaces. It reacts with water and wet snow and lowers the freezing point of the resulting liquid. It melts snow and keeps it from "sticking" on roadways, at least while temperatures are moderately cold (around 15 degrees F or warmer). For more details, please visit the Snow and Ice Control page.

Salt Brine - A salt and water mix that is applied to roadway surfaces before snow begins to fall. Often seen as a series of fuzzy white lines on the road, this liquid brine solution helps prevent the bonding of snow and ice to pavements. Pre-treating Butler County's roads with brine before a snow storm helps melt the snow and ice as it hits the roadway surface which reduces immediate accumulations and allows crews to get a jump on the snow. For more details, please visit the Snow and Ice Control page.

Storm Drain System - Publicly or privately owned or operated facilities and infrastructures by which storm water is collected and/or conveyed, including but not limited to any roads with drainage systems, municipal streets, gutters, curbs, inlets, piped storm drains, pumping facilities, retention and detention basins, natural and human-made or altered drainage channels, reservoirs, and other drainage structures.

Storm Water - Any surface flow, runoff, and drainage consisting entirely of water from any form of natural precipitation and resulting from such precipitation. A flow of water created by snow melt or rainwater that is conveyed by a storm drain system to a water body.

Sump Collection Line - Located underground and adjacent to the street curb and gutter system, this plastic pipe can be 4 to 6 inches in diameter. It is used to collect water from neighborhood sump pumps and discharges to a nearby catch basin or manhole.

Sump Pump - A mechanical pump used to remove water that has accumulated in a sump pit, commonly found in the basement of homes. Water, from rain or natural groundwater, enters the pit from perimeter drains (or footer drains) around the basement walls and is pumped to an outside location or sump collection line.

Superstreet Intersection - A type of intersection in which minor cross street traffic is prohibited from going straight through or left at a divided highway intersection. Minor cross street traffic must turn right but can then access a signalized U-turn to proceed in the desired direction. This requires three lighted intersections, but each light has only two phases, greatly increasing average traffic flow. This innovative intersection has only been used in a few locations around the United States with three new intersections locally to be constructed along Bypass 4.

Swale - A depression between slopes that carries drainage. Most homes are constructed with a swale at the property line between neighbors. Some homes also have a rear swale which directs the water around the house from the rear to the side yard. Swales tend to be relatively shallow with gentle side slopes. Swales can be almost unnoticeable as a landscape feature, but are vital for carrying storm water away from or around the home. This qualifies as a BMP (see above).

Traffic Signal Coordination - Refers to when the timing of multiple traffic signals is synchronized on major roads to keep traffic flowing, which reduces both congestion and air pollution. This timing can automatically be adjusted depending on the traffic flow for the A.M. and P.M. hours. For more traffic information, please visit the Traffic page.

Traffic Signal Preemption - A type of system that allows the normal operation of traffic lights to be preempted, often to assist emergency vehicles. The most common use of these systems is to manipulate traffic signals in the path of an emergency vehicle, stopping conflicting traffic and allowing the emergency vehicle right-of-way to help reduce response times and enhance traffic safety. For more traffic information, please visit the Traffic page.

Transportation Improvement District (TID) - Fostering intergovernmental and public-private collaboration, the Transportation Improvement District (TID) provides a local structure which coordinates federal, state, and local resources in planning, financing, constructing, and operating transportation projects. As leaders across the country call for greater innovation and accelerated construction schedules, the TID is proving the possibilities for better government. The TID drives the responsibility for transportation improvements to the local level and serves a group of local governments collaborating to achieve common transportation goals. As the name implies, a TID is a "district," a geographic area organized for the purpose of improving the existing road system. The TID does not represent a single city, nor is it a large government agency. In fostering cooperation among local governments, the TID increases the impact and effectiveness of local transportation planning and funding. The cooperative structure of the TID allows Butler County communities to accomplish more together than they would if they acted alone. Link to Butler County TID web site.

Watershed - Geographic area of land from which all runoff drains into a single waterway or the total land area from which rain water drains into a particular stream, drain, or body of water.

Water Body - Natural or manmade feature such as a creek, stream, river, detention basin, retention pond, lake, pond, or reservoir.


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