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Newport, Bellevue Awarded Millions in Federal Funds for Projects

Three infrastructure projects in Bellevue and plans for improvements to a Newport park all received federal funding, it was announced on Thursday.

For Bellevue, more than $1 million will help build on Riverfront Commons, improve sidewalks, and repair an aging pedestrian bridge.

In Newport, $2.5 million will help improve Festival Park.

The federal funds were awarded through the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI)

Bellevue projects:

  • $760,000 to build a 1,200-foot section of Riverfront Commons, a shared-use path along the Ohio River, from near Patchen Avenue to Lafayette Avenue. 
  • $216,000 to resurface and make sidewalk improvements on Berry Avenue, Taylor Avenue, Bonnie Leslie Avenue, and Wilson Road. 
  • $124,000 to repair and maintain the pedestrian bridge on Van Voast Avenue over the CSX railroad tracks near Bellevue City Hall (pictured above)

Riverfront Commons is expected to be a more than 11-mile multi-modal recreational trail along the Ohio River from Ludlow to Fort Thomas, though it is being built in sections.

It is a signature project of Southbank Partners, a development agency that assists the Northern Kentucky river cities. 

This will be the first section constructed in Bellevue.

The project, which will cost a total of $950,000, including $190,000 in matching funds from the city, will include a new multi-use path, lighting, fencing, and retaining walls to stabilize the riverbank. The new trail section will run from Patchen Avenue near Buckhead Mountain Grill along the Ohio River behind a parking structure and Harbor Greene condominiums and connect with Lafayette Avenue near Eden Avenue. 

“This is an exciting time for us as we continue to watch the pieces of Riverfront Commons come together as we expand the trail into Bellevue for the first time,” said Jack Moreland, president of Southbank Partners. “We are extremely grateful to the City Engineer Mike Yeager and entire City of Bellevue staff and its elected officials for taking this initiative, on its own accord, to pursue funding for this important regional project.” 

Bellevue Mayor Charlie Cleves said the new trail section will make it safer for pedestrians, runners, and bikers, who are both Bellevue residents and visitors to the city. 

“This new section of Riverfront Commons will take our residents and visitors off of highly traveled roads and parking lots to a scenic trail along the Ohio River where they can safely enjoy our fabulous views of the river and the Cincinnati skyline,” Cleves said.  

“This project is an important link to the regional trail system, which will connect with the city’s existing pedestrian trails at the city’s Wiethorn Memorial Beach Park and to the existing Riverfront Commons’ trail sections in both Dayton and Newport.” 

“We are trying to develop the riverfront in Bellevue,” Cleves said, “and the river trail is an important component that should attract more development.” 

The city will also spend $270,000, including $54,000 in local funds, to resurface Berry Avenue, Taylor Avenue, Bonnie Leslie Avenue, and Wilson Road and make other infrastructure improvements on this street. This work will include replacing poor sections of sidewalks and curbs, removing some problematic trees, and new street striping.

“Getting OKI approval for this grant was a huge success for the city,” Bellevue City Administrator Frank Warnock said. “Rather than using entirely city funds for this resurfacing/sidewalk project, like we normally do, we were able leverage federal grant money that was available to us through OKI’s Surface Transportation Program for Northern Kentucky, commonly known as ‘SNK’.” 

Warnock said the federal SNK program allows the city to undertake the same repair and maintenance work it normally does on its city streets but for only 20 percent of the total cost.   

“Only a few streets in our city qualify for the SNK funding, which is based on the roadway classifications,” Warnock said. “The mayor and I are well aware that a lot of road work needs to be done in the city. We’re doing the best we can with limited resources. 

“We worked with our city engineer to create a roadway inventory and a five-year roadway plan, which has allowed our city to plan and budget for projects like this one. Grant funding like SNK allows our city to have the flexibility to spend the money we save on this project for other important infrastructure projects in the city.” 

The city had been seeking funding for repairs and maintenance of the Van Voast Pedestrian Bridge for several years. The $155,000 project, which includes a $31,000 local match, will consist of high-pressure water blasting, sanding, scaping, priming, and painting of the existing iron trusses. In addition, the existing stairs will be replaced and a bicycle ramp will be constructed to assist bicyclists in pushing their bikes up the stairs. The bridge decking also will be replaced. 

“I can see the pedestrian bridge from my office,” Warnock said, “and it gets a lot of use. It seems that many young families enjoy using the bridge. It is an iconic structure in Bellevue. It definitely needs work. 

“When I was City Attorney way back in the 1990s, the city obtained a $450,000 grant to refurbish the bridge,” Warnock said. “There was talk of taking it down at the time, and thanks needs to go out to the elected leaders at the time for saving the bridge.” 

City Engineer Mike Yeager said the bridge is one of only two iron pedestrian bridges remaining in the state. 

“This project is important to the city because of its historical significance and because it is a very heavily traveled pedestrian corridor,” Yeager said. 

In Newport, the riverfront Festival Park is set to be improved by a $2.5 million federal grant.

The grant will fund improved transportation connections for vehicles, pedestrians, and bicycles along Riverfront Commons to public spaces near the Newport riverfront and the city’s major development areas, including the Ovation music venue now under construction, Newport on the Levee, BB Riverboats, and other locations.  

“Transportation funding spent at Festival Park will improve grading in the park, making it more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists as well as create a scenic overlook, address riverbank stabilization issues, and complete the Riverfront Commons trail in that area of the city,” said Newport City Commissioner Beth Fennell, a member of the OKI board of directors and its Executive Committee and a long-time advocate of improving transportation and mobility in the city. 

“The City of Newport has enjoyed a long and positive relationship with OKI, which has brought millions of federal transportation dollars to the city for road, sidewalk, and trail improvements, Red Bike stations, and other transportation-improvement projects,” Fennell said. 

The city will provide a $607,000 match to the grant, which was announced by OKI earlier today. The engineering firm of Brandstetter Carroll, Inc. worked with Newport Assistant City Manager Larisa Sims on applying for the grant. 

The funding is part of a broader plan that calls for a complete overhaul of Festival Park, known for hosting annual festivals, gatherings, and events that include Italianfest, The Great Inland Seafood Fest, Goettafest, and Oktoberfest. 

“For many years, Festival Park has been a wonderful asset for the City of Newport,” Sims said. “This project is intended to enhance the riverfront space to provide for ongoing festivals, but also to create a more inviting space for residents and nearby employees to enjoy on a daily basis.   

“The bicycle path and roadway proposed at this location will connect to the city’s exciting new developments along the Riverfront, further enhancing Riverfront Commons’ existing assets,” she said. 

Southbank Partners is overseeing development of Riverfront Commons, an 11.5-mile walking/biking path that runs along the Ohio River from Ludlow on the west to Fort Thomas on the east and through the cities of Covington, Newport, Dayton and Bellevue. Southbank has been instrumental in working with Newport and its other member cities on securing grant funding from OKI and the Commonwealth of Kentucky for the project, which is more than half complete. 

“We are grateful for this grant funding from OKI,” said Southbank Partners President Jack Moreland. “OKI has long history of providing funding for projects in Northern Kentucky’s river cities because we have established a strong track record of accomplishments, which includes prudent management and oversight of grant funding and delivering on the projects we propose. 

“Give credit to the City of Newport, particularly the work done by Assistant City Manager Larisa Sims, for stepping up and obtaining the federal funding needed to make this project -- which has been on the books for many years -- a reality,” Moreland said.

-Staff report

Photo: Van Voast pedestrian bridge in Bellevue (RCN file)

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