Op-Ed: Eastern Bypass Proposal Is Worthy of Real Analysis in Bridge Conversation
In my 50 years of building roads and bridges in Kentucky and West Virginia I have never seen so much inaccurate information regarding our possible transportation solutions.
Transportation officials and their lobbyists misrepresent important details and grossly over-estimated the costs of the Cincy Eastern Bypass proposal in an attempt to thwart public discussion.
The Cincy Eastern Bypass Solution cost estimates were derived from roads that were recently constructed—the Butler County Veterans Highway and Tennessee State Route 840. The proposed route and cost estimates were prepared and reviewed by respected engineers. Based on credible cost comparisons, adjusting for inflation and differences in scope, the entire bypass solution is estimated to cost $1.2 billion, including capacity and safety improvements to the Brent Spence Bridge.
Nashville finished a similar bypass for I-40, TN-840 in 2012. This new 78 mile expressway was built with state funds with the same intent, to defer regional through traffic around town instead of through it and to spur job growth. It was built for $750 Million, all in, and plays a major role in the city’s increasing vitality. The US Conference of Mayors projects 78% more job growth in Nashville versus Cincinnati from 2014 through 2016. Nashville managed to find a comprehensive regional solution, overcome the obstacles, and get it built. As a region, we can too.
There has been considerable and detailed due diligence completed on the Cincy Eastern Bypass Solution including traffic analysis, specific routing analysis, and grading plans. This is a real solution that deserves a real cost/benefit analysis.
The Brent Spence Bridge Corridor plan is prohibitively expensive for what it delivers, and it won’t solve our regional congestion. It supplements the current bridge with an additional eight lanes, however, no capacity is being added on I-75 south of I-275 in Kentucky. The Brent Spence Bridge Corridor plan is merely moving the bottleneck. Under OKI’s plan, it will take billions more dollars to solve the problem within the existing corridors.
The Cincy Eastern Bypass is a comprehensive solution to Greater Cincinnati’s traffic issues. The Bypass will reduce congestion, improve traffic flow and safety, and unlock job growth potential across the region.
Regional through traffic represents 38,000 vehicles a day, including most of the heavy trucks.
The Cincy Eastern Bypass will be more effective in routing regional through traffic around the city, especially compared to the already congested I-275. Moreover, the alignment of the Bypass is relatively mild as compared to I-75, has maximum grades of 3%, has a design speed of 70 mph, and won’t be congested. The I-75/71 cut in the hill is 5% grade and presents a challenge for trucks to maintain speed, thus becoming a safety challenge. Travelers will use the Bypass saving the typical I-75 regional through driver 4 to 44 minutes depending on the time of day.
Diverting through-traffic reduces congestion on the central I-71/75 corridor, I-71, and I-275. Removing 25% of traffic will effectively add an additional lane of capacity to the entire I-75 corridor. Reducing the burden on the existing corridor will allow immediate and cost-effective safety improvements to the corridor. We can refurbish the existing Brent Spence Bridge and address modest issues to enhance capacity and safety without fear of duplication and waste.
The misinformation from these bureaucratic organizations is simply an attempt to distract from any discussion of a better, less expensive long term solution instead of a temporary effort.
The transportation agencies involved in this project must communicate to the public accurate details about the various alternatives. At the very least, the Bypass deserves a fair hearing and realistic analysis of costs, traffic and economic benefit by competent, unbiased consulting engineers.
Richard Crist is an award-winning civil engineer. He worked for KYTC in the Bridge Design office, was the president of the Kentucky Association of Highway Engineers, and in 2001 was inducted into the Kentucky Transportation Hall of Fame.