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Riverfront Commons Movement in Covington, Newport, and Dayton

Three Northern Kentucky cities are seeing new movement in the quest to link the riverfront communities with a contiguous trail system.

Riverfront Commons, when completed, will be an 11.5-mile trail connecting Ludlow, Covington, Newport, Bellevue, Dayton, and Fort Thomas along the Ohio River.

In Covington, the city commission is expected on Tuesday to approve more than $6.5 million in work for a section on the riverfront between Greenup Street and Madison Avenue.

The city is using a share of federal funds to pay for this portion of the project.

Prus Construction is expected to be awarded the job, with preconstruction underway this month and construction to begin in August.

Work could be completed by the fall of 2020, Covington's public works director Rick Davis said. 

This section is expected to include improve overlooks along the Ohio River at Madison, Greenup, and Scott Boulevard. Lighting, parking, and landscaping will also be improved.

The project also includes an 1,100-seat amphitheater. 

The plans have been scaled back from several years ago when a 2009 waterfront master plan was developed, and the projected price tag escalated to the tens of millions of dollars.

On Tuesday, this item will be voted on separately from other agenda items so that there can be more community understanding of the investment, Mayor Joe Meyer said. 

"This is a significant step," Meyer said. "The concept that was promoted originally ballooned up to 50, 60 million dollars. We have ten percent of that. We want to lay a foundation here so there can be private fundraising to add additional facilities built on this foundation."

This project will link an already-completed part of the trail system that is paved to the west of the old Covington Landing site to Highway Avenue.

The city is also prepping the section further west for work.

Right now, the project is being designed from west of I-75 to Highway (KY 8). "There is a big ravine so we have to build a structure there," Davis said. "It gets a little complicated with design."

Last year, the city submitted an application for a grant so that the project can continue westward. "It will go west as far as we can," Davis said. 

Some grant money is already allocated for it, and will be available in two years, Davis said. 

"Altogether, this is going to be about two-point-seven miles along the Ohio River from the very west end to the very east end. Everything is being designed or will be in the near future."

The westward expansion will eventually reach Ludlow, which currently has put its Riverfront Commons plans on hold while it gets its financial house in order.

In Newport, more work is on the way.

On Monday night, the city commission is expected to approve a memorandum of understanding with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet related to the construction of two pedestrian bridges extending from the flood wall to the Taylor Southgate Bridge on the east and west sides.

The city commission approved the contract in June for Sunesis Construction at a cost of more than $1.1 million. The funding is mostly federal, with a local match of $274,357 from the city, paid for with bond proceeds through its capital projects fund.

Newport has much of its portion of Riverfront Commons paved already.

Meanwhile, in Dayton, the city will soon cut the ribbon on a new section of the trail there for which it received more than $800,000 in federal grant funding last year.

Mayor Ben Baker explained that this represents phase one of three for Dayton's share of Riverfront Commons.

A ribbon-cutting is scheduled for Thursday, August 8, the seventy-seventh anniversary of the death of Edward Henry Ahrens, a Dayton native who died in the World War II Battle of Guadalcanal. The Marine was 22 years old. The trail section will be named for him.

The trail will immediately open to the public, Baker said.

Ahrens lived on Second Avenue, close to where the trail is now.

Last fall, when the federal funds were announced, the first section was described as being about a half mile starting at the western border of the city and going east. The second phase, which could see work start later this year, will be about another quarter of a mile.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: The Greenup Street overlook in Covington (RCN)