Park Hills foresees need for traffic help amid backup after I-75 shutdown

Patricia A. Scheyer
Patricia A. Scheyer
Patricia is a contributor to LINK nky.

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Park Hills City Council held a discussion on traffic at their caucus meeting last week, with the mayor and council members still reeling from the amount of gridlocked traffic in their city as a result of a fatal accident on Interstate 75 in the early morning hours of Sunday.

“Before the accident on Sunday, I really wanted to talk about street calming and bridge traffic for the bridge project, which is due to start in about a year or so,” Mayor Kathy Zembrodt said. “That is we have to have something in place to calm down the traffic that is coming through here, because they seem to want to go over every little street we have. Just like Sunday I encountered many huge vehicles– trucks, tractor trailers, driving up over the top of our stop signs and going on roads they shouldn’t be on. It took me an hour and a half just to get from Kyles lane to my street. It was a mess.”

She indicated that due to the location of Park Hills, the city might bear the brunt of the restrictions of traffic as the new bridge is being constructed. Since the fatal accident on Sunday shut down I-75 north for hours, traffic backed up Dixie Highway, leaving a massive parking lot, and frustrated drivers tried to find another way out by using narrow residential streets unaccustomed to having so many cars — or 18 wheelers, for that matter.

Councilman Joe Shields agreed.

“I wonder if we could get some help in the form of advice and grants,” he said. “We are going to get killed when this project starts. I think now would be the time to sit down with our state legislators and with KYTC and say, ‘You are visiting this on our city and we expect help’. Maybe there’s money out there for increased patrols, I don’t know. Let’s leverage it.”

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Zembrodt said she liked the idea of getting more agencies involved, mentioning that she thought the more ideas the better.

Shields acknowledged that he is not a traffic engineer and since the bridge project is going to be extensive enough that all the cities in the area are going to queue up to receive help, they ought to be one of the first in line.

“This answer is beyond us,” he stated. “What we need to do now is to get the help we need. I don’t know what that is. Maybe it means multi-jurisdictional rerouting of traffic. We may need to work with our sister cities and talk about rerouting traffic on a more global status instead of us trying to make a couple of streets one way.”

Councilmember Pam Spoor agreed with getting professionals on board.

“On Sunday with that tragic accident, it was just awful,” she said. “But the handling of the traffic rerouting was not good, and I’m not referencing here in Park Hills. If they could have diverted the traffic to I-275 way back, instead of everybody being stuck on there, and then they get down to the end and they see the Texas turnaround, and there’s no where to go and then that begat more accidents on Amsterdam, and so on. It was a major safety issue. You saw what Sunday was. I don’t think any of us want a daily diet of that.”

Councilmember Sarah Froelich said that there are so many communities along the Dixie corridor which will be affected by the bridge project, that there might be a coordinated county effort among the cities to obtain help.

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Kevin Downes agreed, saying there might already be something with Covington, Ft Mitchell, Fort Wright, and some of the cities and they need to find out about it.

Spoor said she thought Park Hills was especially affected, because they have two main pathways through the city, Dixie Highway and Amsterdam, but then they have this network of connecting streets that are residential. People look at their GPS, she said, and think they can get through to Amsterdam, but then get stuck on one of the residential streets.

“There is absolutely a traffic plan for the Brent Spence bridge, but it gets prioritized with business districts and sizeable communities,” Shields explained, saying he was part of the bridge project the first time the state talked about it. “So you can bet that in order to get the funding, they’re going to sweeten the pot for Covington because its a big jurisdiction, so there is no question discussion is going on.”

He said they need to keep in mind that there could be some money to rebuild possibly in five years after the damage has been done with traffic taking the liberty of short-cutting through Park Hills during the entire project. In five years the city will need money because they are bearing a burden for the area, and Shields wants to make sure that some of that reparation money comes to Park Hills.

Steve Elkins agreed and brought up that a representative from OKI or the Brent Spence bridge project will be coming to the December meeting, and he felt the city needs to contact that representative now.

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Shields said they should also contact the sister cities.

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