The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Ohio Department of Transportation held an open house event at the Cincinnati Riverfront Radisson Hotel in Covington on Wednesday.
“We really wanted to give the public an opportunity to come and ask questions if they had specific questions,” said Bob Yeager, chief engineer for District 6 of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
The event showcased various design documents and renderings both for the new companion bridge, which is scheduled to begin construction next year, and the rest of the corridor, which extends all along I-71 and I-75 on both sides of the river.
The event was well-attended, and transportation representatives were on hand to answer questions from attendees. Slideshows with audio describing the corridor’s history and design process were also available for people to view.
The corridor project has been in the works since the early 2000s but has undergone several delays due to funding shortages. Its initial design was settled on in 2012 after the first round of public input and an environmental study were completed.
Fast forward to today, the project has pitched two possible designs for the replacement bridge – a cable bridge design and an arch bridge design.
Categorized as a progressive design-build project, the plans for the corridor are open-ended, allowing the designs to be augmented and changed based on public comment and environmental assessment as the construction proceeds. The official design for the companion bridge has not yet been chosen, but Gov. Andy Beshear and Gov. Mike Dewine announced the design build team, a joint construction enterprise called Walsh Kokosing, at the end of July.
Yeager said that additional environmental assessments were still in the works, given that the initial environmental studies are over ten years old. Once those are completed, the project will host public hearings where people can voice their concerns and ask additional questions. Yeager added that the open house did not count as a public hearing, even though people from the public were invited to attend. The hearings are set to occur later this year and early next year.
“The two states working together has been just amazing to watch,” said Matt Bruning, who works for the Ohio Department of Transportation. “There has not been that friction that you might imagine, especially when you talk about politics–you’ve got a Republican governor in Ohio, a Democratic governor of Kentucky. It has been truly a bi-state, bipartisan effort… It’s been fun.”
The attendees’ reactions were mixed, with most saying that the most recent designs were improvements over the original 2012 designs. How the construction would affect local communities was still on people’s minds, though.
“The new design is so much superior to the original concept,” said Covington resident Steve Hayden.
His wife, Catherine Hayden, said they weren’t too worried about the Brent Spence construction, although they did have misgivings about the plans for the 4th Street Bridge replacement, which have recently come under some public criticism.
“This bridge is a long time coming, and I think it’s great that it’s finally happening,” said Covington Resident Jeanne Trifilio. “I’m interested in what buildings around the bridge will have to be sacrificed.”
Stacee Hans, the Brent Spence corridor’s project coordinator, said at a legislative committee meeting in February that simplifying the construction, reducing costs, reducing impacts, and incorporating additional enhancements into the project led to a reduction of residential relocations on the Kentucky side of the river from over 40 to four. Other documentation from the project put the number of affected commercial properties at 27.
Others weren’t so optimistic.
“I’m not happy,” said Mary Todd, a teacher from Fort Mitchell who commutes to work in Cincinnati, “Not at all.”
“It’s my commute everyday,” Todd said. She said that she tends to avoid I-75 “because it’s so congested.” Instead, she takes the Clay Wade Bailey bridge, but the construction will inevitably disrupt her commute. Todd also shared many of the other attendees’ worries about the disruption to local businesses and homes.
“What can you do?” she said.
Construction on the corridor is scheduled to begin next year.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Ohio Department of Transportation will host another open house today at Longworth Hall in Cincinnati from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.