John Brophy came to the Fort Wright city council meeting Wednesday night because he and his Marcella Drive neighbors received a letter concerning acquisition of their property as part of the Brent Spence Bridge project.
“We all received a letter from the Transportation Cabinet a few weeks ago,” he said to council. “We need your help. We need your support.”
The letter provided written notice of a potential acquisition of land along the route of the expressway leading up to the Brent Spence Bridge (where a second span is also planned in the project), which just happens to be in Brophy and his neighbors’ backyard. The letter came from the Division of Right of Way and Utilities, under the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
Brophy said the neighbors’ concern is that Interstate 71/75 is pretty noisy and about to get noisier, because it is going to get closer to their property as the massive highway project progresses. He even invited the mayor and council to come and sit in his backyard to hear how loud it already is.
“We would like the City of Ft. Wright to do a letter of endorsement on getting a noise wall built on our property,” Brophy said.
He said he talked to people at the Transportation Cabinet, and discussed a retaining wall, but Brophy doesn’t believe that that would be enough.
“We need a sound wall,” he stated. “As tall as we can get it.”
Mayor Dave Hatter said he understood where they were coming from, and cautioned that his opinion does not count, but he said that the city has advocated for other residents on sound abatement to no avail.
“I’ll just tell you in advance that we’ve never had a good relationship with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 6,” Hatter said. “I don’t want to set some kind of unrealistic expectation for you that they’re going to care what we have to say.”
He went on to advise that every resident should reach out to State Sen. Chris McDaniel, and State Rep. Buddy Wheatley, as well as the Kenton County Fiscal court, and get as many people on board for this issue as possible.
Fort Mitchell already has a beautiful brick wall as a noise barrier on I-75, Hatter said, and Fort Wright has “zilch.”
“I wouldn’t hold your breath that this is going to get you a lot of leverage,” the mayor warned the residents.
Attorney Tim Theissen wrote a resolution that was shared at the meeting:
“The City of Fort Wright strongly supports the installation of a sound barrier wall along I-75/71 north and south of the Kyles Lane interchange to protect the homes in Ft. Wright from the Ft. Mitchell boundary on the south to the Covington boundary on the north and to reduce the adverse sound impact of the construction of the future roadway and thus to protect the values of the affected homes. The barriers should be an integral part of the construction project currently being planned along the corridor.”
Council voted unanimously for the resolution.
Chuck Wolfe, a spokesperson for the Transportation Cabinet in Frankfort, said that the reason the bridge project has “legs” now is a bipartisan infrastructure law which caused an infusion of federal funding. Kentucky and Ohio have applied for the money which promises to be a sizeable grant. The Brent Spence Bridge and its related highway project has long been on the local wish list of elected and business officials. The project calls for changes to the highway corridor leading to the bridge from both sides of the Ohio River and also a new bridge to be erected next to the existing 60-year old span.
“The project was on pause,” Wolfe said. “The federal money was a game-changer.”
Wolfe said that he knows that residents of Ft. Wright have asked for a sound wall.
“It is not an uncommon request to have some kind of sound wall,” he said. “It all depends on the nature of project. The cabinet is usually sensitive to these requests. We have been as sensitive as possible to local governments along the project.”
He said the whole plan is an eight-mile project with the bridge as the centerpiece. He stressed that he wasn’t saying the planners would or wouldn’t include sound walls, but he said they usually take requests into consideration.
Park Hills Mayor Kathy Zembrodt agreed that a noise wall should be included in plans.
“I’d be on board with providing a resolution or a letter about a wall,” she said. “I always thought Ft. Wright needed one. Ft. Mitchell has one, Ft. Wright needs one.”
Representative Buddy Wheatley said that these residents need a wall because quality of life matters.
“I think it’s a great idea for cities and communities to express their residents’ desires through resolutions like the one passed by the city of Ft Wright regarding the Brent Spence bridge corridor project,” Wheatley said. “A sound barrier, or any other mitigation issue, can also be brought to elected state representatives. It’s my job to make sure their voices are heard in Frankfort.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled John Brophy’s last name. It has been updated. LINK nky regrets the error.