Home Builder: Skip the Brent Spence, Construct a Bypass of 71, 75, & 275
Wed, 01/21/2015 - 19:49 RCN Newsdesk
As I understand it, the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) and others propose to spend $2.6 billion to add traffic capacity to 7.8 miles of I-75 that includes the Brent Spence Bridge. The project would consist of keeping the Brent Spence Bridge, adding an adjacent bridge, and adding improvements on both sides of the Ohio River leading up to the bridge. The pertinent questions are: will this very expensive repair to this short section of I-75 materially solve our regional Interstate highway gridlock, or is it a small part of a much larger problem?
Do we have a comprehensive plan to solve our regional gridlock problem? How much will it cost, and how will it be funded? Are there viable alternate solutions?
Anyone who drives our local interstate system knows that I-71 from downtown to Lebanon, I-75 from downtown to Tylersville Road, downtown to the I-75/I-71 split near Walton in Kentucky, and certain parts of I-275 are already over capacity.
If we decide to solve our gridlock problems by only improving our existing interstate routing, in the near future, 50+ miles of our 150+ mile existing system will require at least one additional lane each way. Adding this capacity will be very expensive given the intensity of existing adjacent development, the need to rebuild many bridges and interchange ramps to accomplish the widening, and the need to maintain traffic during construction.
Some particularly difficult and expensive problems to solve but not addressed by the current “bridge plan” include how to add capacity to: I-71 Lytle Park Tunnel and Fort Washington Way; I-75 from Norwood Lateral through the Ronald Reagan Highway; the I-75 split at Lockland and through Evendale; I-71 from downtown to Kenwood; and the I-275/I-75 interchange in Kentucky.
Does it make sense to spend $2.6 billion on this short 7.8 mile “bridge plan” segment of our regional interstate system without having a comprehensive plan in place to substantially increase capacity throughout our 150+ mile Greater Cincinnati Interstate system? Are there viable alternate solutions?
Here is an alternate solution. That solution is to build an I-75/I-71/I-275 bypass around the eastern side of our region. The route would start at I-75 just north of Middletown, proceed southeast and connect to I-71 just east of Lebanon, proceed south to the east of Batavia, cross the Ohio River near New Richmond, and proceed southwest to intersect with I-75 just south of Walton.
This bypass would divert enough traffic to materially eliminate the need to add capacity to our existing Interstate system, including the need for a new bridge next to the Brent Spence Bridge, and do so at a lower cost.
The resulting diverted traffic would include most of I-75 and I-71 traffic (truck and auto) that goes completely through our region, along with many trips that are initiated and/or terminated in the eastern part of the region.
Additional benefits of the bypass include: improved regional connectivity, lightening of traffic along the eastern roadway corridors east of I-275, improved traffic safety, minimal traffic congestion during construction, and improved Cincinnati air quality.
One way or the other, it is going to be necessary to spend many billions of dollars to improve our regional Interstate system in the not-too-distant future. It seems to me that it only makes sense to analyze the problem on a region-wide basis before we spend $2.6 billion on only 7.8 miles of the 150+ miles of the Greater Cincinnati Interstate highway system.
Henry Fischer, a civil engineer by training, is Chairman of Fischer Homes. He has contributed to many regional community and infrastructure planning efforts in the past decades.