Campbell Leaders Hear Proposed Alternative to Brent Spence Project
At the Campbell County Mayors Meeting in Newport on Tuesday, Greg Fischer of Fischer Homes and son of home builder Henry Fischer presented a pitch for an alternative to the proposed Brent Spence Bridge project called the Eastern Regional Bypass.
The proposal is a 68-mile stretch, including a bridge over the Ohio River, that spans from Franklin, Ohio to Wilder. The group Citizens for the Eastern Bypass has pulled together multiple studies and research to develop a detailed plan for the proposal.
“As a group, we are in support of immediately planning and constructing the Eastern Bypass. It should be built now regardless of the final conclusions of the Brent Spence Bridge project,” Fischer said.
One of the main points of the Bypass proposal is that it aims to alleviate tractor trailer traffic on Interstate 75 through the region's urban center. The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) projects that truck traffic will grow four times as fast as cars by 2040.
OKI supports the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project, not the Bypass.
“The way the OKI, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Ohio Department of Transportation tried to solve the solution is expand the existing corridor. In 2007, ODOT decided to expand 75 by one lane. They chose to stick with one and favor mass transit in the event more was needed. I-275 to Dayton is already complete and is already having capacity problems with a lot of growth in Butler and Warren County,” Fischer said. “Whether I-75 gets dealt with and they add an additional lane, it’s going to continue to be an issue.”
According to Fischer’s numbers, adding one lane from Dayton to Walton would cost $4.8 billion. In Kentucky alone, from the Ohio River to Walton, it would cost $2.6 billion, he said.
“In the Florence area, all the interchanges that were built within the last 15-20 years, there is no place to add a lane there without going to the outside and they would have to tear out all of those ramps. All of that would have to be replaced and would be very costly,” he said. “A simple lane addition does not solve the capacity problem. It does nothing for I-71, I-275, or any other major highways including I-471. It offers no opportunity for future job growth and turns I-75 in this case in Northern Kentucky into a parking lot.”
In Citizens for the Eastern Bypass, supporters believe that circumventing traffic east away from the Brent Spence Bridge would allow traffic to flow easier across the entire region.
“What is a better solution if one lane isn’t enough?,” Fischer asked. “It starts with the idea of bypassing regional through traffic. 23 percent of our bridge traffic is regional through traffic, meaning it doesn’t stop in our region—that’s about one lane of traffic on the bridge. Half of that traffic is trucks. This route was selected to make sure that it saves time. On a normal day with no congestion, it saves an average of four minutes for a truck driver and 44 minutes with typical rush hour congestion.”
In the proposal there would be no elevation grade steeper than 3.5 percent on the route.
“It’s much safer for drivers at 70 miles per hour. It maximizes regional transportation and job growth value. The big advantage of this is economic and job growth, especially in Campbell and Clermont Counties.”
Henry Fischer is already developing preliminary grading and engineering plans for the project including the measurements of all overpasses and how much acreage needs to be acquired. The cost for the 68 miles would at $15 million a mile, plus $100 million for the Ohio River bridge which comes out to $1.1 billion for the entire route, according to the presentation.
Analysis by the transportation departments of Kentucky and Ohio dispute that cost.
“There has been some debate about how well we know our costs. The way we went about identifying our costs, was to compare it to other recently built interstate-class projects and adjust for inflation and design differences. We used newly built comparables. Tennessee 840 is a bypass that goes from the south of Nashville as bypass for interstate 40. We also used the Butler County regional highway that was finished around 2000. Our total costs has all the same costs as OKI, KTC and ODOT would have.”
Like his son, Henry Fischer is a civil engineer who built express ways before he built houses. He built over 20,000 homes in multiple communities. The Fischers are working with Richard Crist who is a registered engineer of over 50 years and worked for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.Crist built more than 300 miles of express way throughout Kentucky including rebuilding the Cut-in-the-Hill. These are the experts that have nailed down the cost estimates for the Eastern Bypass.
“We really know our numbers but if there was a chance that we were off 50 percent, it’s still a compelling value,” Greg Fischer said at the meeting. “The head of KTC and ODOT jointly penned a letter stating that this project would cost $5 billion. It just doesn’t make sense. They didn’t spend any time viewing this, they didn’t look at the project. Why would it cost five times as much for us to build our project. They’re not using real numbers.”
In the Eastern Bypass proposal a $100 million dollars would be designated for the Brent Spence Bridge to improve entrance and exit ramps, lighting, and signage.
Campbell County Commissioners Charlie Coleman and Brian Painter each expressed their support for the Eastern Bypass Corridor. No one else at the meeting shared their feelings on the matter.
Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor