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Covington Mayor Talks Bridge Project in Radio Interview

Covington Mayor Sherry Carran, who will preside over her first official city commission meeting Tuesday night, was a guest on The Bill Cunningham Show on 700 WLW radio Monday afternoon where the main topic was the possible effects of the Brent Spence Bridge project on the city.

"We feel comfortable with where the access points (to Covington) are now," Carran told Cunningham. The mayor recognized the effort of city leaders and the community, particularly at a public meeting last summer, in fighting for changes to earlier plans for the bridge project that would have eliminated access to the city at Fifth Street from northbound Interstate 75. "It became very apparent to the federal government that the access points we wanted were very important."

Drivers from southbound I-75 will not see signs directing them to Covington beginning at Ezzard Charles in Cincinnati. "People are used to that being one lane but the access lanes will be three or four lanes," Carran explained. 

Cunningham, who was born in Covington and once owned Willie's Sports Bar on Crescent Avenue near Western Avenue, asked about access to the restaurant he sold several years ago. Carran said the route from the Interstate to Willie's would pretty much be the same. "You'll still have to come back underneath," she said. "It won't be quite as easy but it will still be easy." The exit at Fifth Street will be made safer, also. "We've had a lot of close calls at Fifth, a lot of people not stopping at the stop sign."

No official position on tolls by the city

Mayor Carran told Cunningham that the City of Covington had not yet taken a formal position on tolls to help fund the multi-billion dollar project. "We are still getting our data as to the pros and cons," she said. Cunningham has taken a strong position against tolls on recent shows often charging that the federal government can build bridges in Afghanistan where the country remains at war, but not here at home. Carran explained that the University of Cincinnati Economic Center is conducting an economic impact study on behalf of the city.

"We're still gathering information and won't take a formal stand until we're comfortable with what's being presented." Cunningham suggested that drivers may choose to take local bridges such as the Roebling Suspension Bridge or the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge to avoid the tolls on the Brent Spence Bridge. "It would grossly increase traffic that the suspension bridge was not intended to handle," the host said. Carran responded that there is a weight limit on the suspension bridge which would prohibit freight vehicles from crossing it.

"Will it get to the point that we're just transferring problems to the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge and shortening its lifespan? These are the things that need to be addressed," the mayor said. "Covington will be feeling the impact of tolls the most. How will traffic change? Our road surfaces, our utilities underneath, and business will be impacted. That hasn't been part of the decision yet. That's why we're being a little pushy right now."

"It's one of the reasons Covington is trying to be more involved in the dialogue." 

"We don't want to look back years and say, 'boy, did we screw up'," Carran said.

An important time to be mayor of Covington

Cunningham suggested that this is a very important time to be a leader of Covington. Reform to the state pension system is onthe table, the bridge debate continues, and Covington's bicentennial approaches in 2015. Carran is also the first female mayor of the city, a milestone she recognizes but doesn't make too much of a fuss over. 

"I'm just proud to be mayor. I feel really good about it," she said. "I'm used to being in a man's world." When Carran was in the architecture program at the University of Cincinnati, she was one of four women in a class of about a hundred students. 

"I know it means a lot to other people that finally there's a female mayor in Covington and maybe it sends a message to younger women," Carran said. "I'm very proud to be mayor and being the first female mayor is just icing on the cake."

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Covington Mayor Sherry Carran