RTA, Oxford trail projects get grants
4 or 5 buses will be replaced with alt-energy vehicles.
A Red Line bus in the Middletown Transit Service fleet travels on Central Avenue. The Butler County RTA manages the MTS fleet. The Butler County RTA was awarded $5 million from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Councils of Governments for its bus replacement project. FILE
By Michael D. Pitman
Staff Writer

A pair of Butler County transportation projects have been approved to receive millions of federal grant dollars.

The awards to Butler County RTA and the city of Oxford are going to two of 26 regional transportation projects receiving funding through the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI). In all, $53.8 million was awarded. The county RTA will receive $5 million for a bus replacement project, and Oxford will receive $2.76 million for Phase 5 of its multiuse trail project.

OKI Board President David Painter said the projects are “a major investment in our multimodal transportation network” throughout the organization’s eight-county region.

“These projects will improve mobility and safety for drivers, transit riders, cyclists and pedestrians,” he said. “And, they will raise the quality of life for our citizens.”

Butler County RTA applied for the grant funding to replace heavyduty diesel buses, similar to the ones operated in Oxford and Middletown.

These buses have either a 12-year or 500,000-mile useful life, said Butler County RTA Executive Director Matthew Dutkevicz.

He said the grant money will purchase either four hydrogen fuel cell buses or five battery-electric buses.

“We have a study getting underway now to determine the best alternative energy for our operating parameters,” Dutkevicz said.

“Since money is not available for a few years, we have some time to determine the most efficient and effective fuel source for this bus purchase.”

The money award won’t be available for the RTA until federal fiscal year 2026, and the agency will match the remaining 20% of the project, which is about $1.25 million.

Butler County RTA operates 19 heavy-duty coaches, and operates an additional five owned by the city of Middletown via the Middletown City Transit System. Dutkeicz said seven more vehicles are due for replacement around 2026 that will need to be funded by other programs.

Oxford was awarded $2.76 million for Phase 5 of its Oxford Area Trail project, and this phase will construct more than 2.25 miles of new trails.

Phase 5 will connect both sides of town and Talawanda’s high school with its middle school, according to the project. It will also provide a connection to a multimodal facility where the new Butler County RTA bus terminal is being built.

The long-term plan for the Oxford Area Trails project will have a loop around the city, and OKI money awarded this month will support the next phase of that project.

Oxford just completed Phase 2 of the project in 2020.

“We have been working to build our trail system over many years and this is a crucial piece connecting the east and west sides of town with a multimodal path,” said Oxford Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene.

Oxford voters supported in 2018 a levy to raise funds for the trail system, which go toward matching OKI and other grants, said Greene, adding these funds “have been instrumental” in allowing the city to be competitive with grants.

“The goal of these multimodal trails are to provide a safe, off-road connection for pedestrians and cyclists to connect to parks, school, neighborhoods and historic sites,” she said.

Oxford will begin construction on Phases 3 and 4 with OKI funding in 2022.

Additional phases will be needed to complete the eventual 12-mile loop around Oxford, Greene said.

To date, Oxford has received $5.9 million in grants and invested $8.1 million in local matching funds. Additional local funds have come from Miami University and the Oxford Community Foundation’s Oxford Area Trail Fund, Greene said.

Contact this reporter at 513- 820-2175 or email Michael.Pitman@coxinc.com.