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Kings Island interchange to get $36 million in work

State says 7,000 jobs could be created by Warren County work.Projects also designed to improve safety.

More than $56 million in Interstate 71 improvements around Kings Island Amusement Park in Warren County will create jobs, stimulate economic development and ease traffic problems, state documents show.

The I-71 Western Row interchange just south of Kings Island will undergo $36 million in work.

As many as 7,000 jobs could be created as a result of that project, according to a state funding application that said about half the 7.8 million tourists who visit the county annually use the Western Row interchange.

“They really needed that interchange if they were going to have all these businesses move here,” said Troy May, spokesman for Atricure, the latest company to move to Mason in southern Warren County. “I don’t see how they could have developed the area without it. It’s already congested.”

Last week, Atricure agreed to join companies including Intelligrated, Seapine Software and Rhinestahl moving headquarters to commerce parks near the Western Row interchange and Innovation Way, one of the roads to be improved as part of the project. The companies have invested or are committed to spend more than $100 million and employ more than 1,000 workers, according to an application for state road funding.

Atricure is the anchor tenant of the city’s new OakPark District, a commerce park near the Western row interchange.

Officials expect the Western Row project to impact more than 6,000 acres along a corridor between the Hamilton-Warren County line and the interchange at the south end of the amusement park.

The improvements are expected to relieve congestion, ease access and prompt additional development at the Fields-Ertel Mason-Montgomery and Ohio 741 interchanges immediately north and south of Western Row.

“The impacts are huge. The interchanges are the economic drivers today,” said Dan Corey, a Warren County engineer and administrator of the county’s Transportation Improvement District (TID).

Eventually officials with the TID also plan to complete and upgrade the partial interchange at Ohio 741 and I-71, leading to the park’s north side.

But the group, also behind the new $5.2 million northbound ramp from Ohio 73 onto Interstate 75 and the $700,000 straightening of Union Road near the Miami Valley Gaming racino, is focusing on $20 million in work under way or planned at I-71’s Fields-Ertel Mason-Montgomery interchange and the improvements planned over the next two years around the Western Row exit.

“Interchange improvements are needed to improve safety, ease congestion and expand access to business and recreational destinations in the area,” according to the TID purpose and need statement for the project.

Mason officials said $3.6 million in local funding for improvements to Kings Island Drive would come from tax dollars expected to result in a 5:1 return on investment. Other funds are to come from Warren County, the Ohio Department of Transportation and OKI Regional Council of Governments.

Kings Island collaborated with Mason on the work on Kings Island Drive, to be completed in 2015, according to company officials.

“The City of Mason has been a great partner in the planning of the proposed improvements ensuring that none of the changes hamper our current or future business plans,” Greg Scheid, vice-president and general manager at Kings Island, said in an email.

The first phase of work will also relocate a section of Columbia Road, move the employee entrance to Kings Island on Columbia 900 feet east, separate traffic signals and smooth a 90-degree turn on Western Row Road. The second phase will complete the Western Row interchange, adding southbound entrance and exit ramps and northbound ramps at Kings Island Drive, one looping off Western Row, the other near the water park entrance.

“KI has long looked at reducing their current toll plaza structure down to one entrance for many reasons with safety being our greatest concern. Currently the left-hand turn into Kings Island can be tricky when approaching from the North, especially with no traffic signal to allow an easy left-hand turn into the parking lot,” Scheid said.

Scheid said Kings Island was in the midst of a three-year parking lot renovation project including a new toll plaza and entrance from King Island Drive, but declined to say how much the company was investing in this project or contributing to the road improvements.

Road planners still hope to get the Ohio 741 interchange improvements off the drawing board and fund more improvements around the southbound ramp from the Fields-Ertel exit.

“We’re still not quite done,” Corey said.

mprove Innovation, Cintas Boulevard.

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