Next month will mark four years since the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet closed a section of Old State Route 8 in Fort Thomas due to mudslides and unsafe conditions.
If the state accepts a new proposal by city officials, a solution and potential reopening could finally be on the horizon.
Last year, state officials notified Campbell County Fiscal Court that they intended to give up ownership of the almost three-mile stretch running from River Road to Tower Hill. By statute, ownership would be offered to the county and then to the city. The cost of repairing and maintaining the road is steep, according to officials.
The state offered to repair about 45% of the roadway and that alone would run between $8 and $10 million, said Fort Thomas City Administrator Matt Kremer. “And that is only downhill repair,” he noted.
Looking for an answer
In a meeting last month, state officials offered to repair the roadway in exchange for the city taking ownership and maintaining the route going forward.
“We’ve done extensive research over the last couple years and even more so in the last month. We were trying to figure out a way that we would be able to take over the road and have it not be a financial impact to us long-term, and we just can’t figure that out. The road is too historically unstable to be able to take it over ourselves,” Kremer said.
He reiterated the importance of reopening, especially for the business and residents directly impacted by the closure.
“We want the road to be open but to what extent?… We really have looked at this at all angles, even to the idea of them repairing it and giving us a certain amount of money we can put in escrow for that roadway, but still there’s just too much liability there for me to be comfortable to accept right now,” Kremer said.
The city offers a plan
Yet, he said, he is hopeful. The city has made a proposal to state officials. “We have created a plan to assist KYTC in maintaining that stretch of land, meaning clean out ditches and the smaller stuff that our public works department is able to do. And, hopefully, we can get to a resolution to be able to open up route eight again and get traffic flowing.”
He is sending a letter outlining the plan to the state. “Our recommendation to them is we will do the day-to-day. We’ll do any issues under $25,000 that come up that we can handle ourselves. We’ll make sure all the drainage is cleaned out and all the culverts are clean and things like that.”
“I think the plan we’re working on now is a good answer,” said Mayor Eric Haas. “I like to emphasize that I think if we’re willing to take over some of that routine maintenance, cleaning the ditches out on a regular basis…if there’s water going across the road, something’s clogged up, we fix it right then, we can make that road last a lot better, a lot longer.”
Both Kremer and Haas said they are very impressed with the state’s plan for the repairs. After the repairs are made, the city would pay close attention to it going forward, they said.