Plans for Red Bank Expressway scrutinized

MADISONVILLE, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati's East Siders raised concerns over a planned construction project and let their opinions be known loud and clear Wednesday night.

"An expressway through this area would completely obliterate any of that development and divide a community in two," said Yvette Simpson, a City Council candidate who attended a meeting with ODOT Wednesday night.

The debate over the $1.4 billion Eastern Corridor project is heating up.

The proposed project is designed to help ease access issues that some communities have from the eastern suburbs to downtown Cincinnati and back.

For example, residents living in Mount Washington, Anderson Township and Eastgate areas, can't access I-71 from Route 32.

But, under the proposal, there would be a relocated Route 32, which would let those drivers filter onto Red Bank Expressway and then onto I-71 without needing to drive through places such as Newtown or Mount Lookout.

It's good news for some, but bad news if you ask someone living in Madisonville.

Their meeting with ODOT lasted a couple of hours. ODOT reps spoke briefly, but mostly sat back and listened to people's concerns.

Plans to build a full-size football field for the John Parker School got sidelined once the Marvin Lewis Community Fund learned ramps for the new expressway would run right through the field.

Folks got an up-close look at two concepts of what could be the new Red Bank Expressway.

"And they're saying we gave them a choice," said Bob Igoe, who is Madisonville's Community Council President. "That's not a choice because we weren't part of the process."

Igoe said there needs to be more input from the people who actually live there.

"You can't develop this kind of project in the dark and expect the community to embrace it," Igoe said. "The plans they've shown us are detrimental to our grade school, detrimental to businesses in the area, detrimental to the Cincinnati Children's Home."

They're also proposing to re-name it the Dunbar Expressway, which would be an homage to Madisonville families who are descendents of slaves, who escaped over the Ohio River and settled there.

"If you look at what's been done on Red Bank already," said Rick Hiatt, who is a Mount Lookout Community Council member. "It's been done well."

Hiatt said an expressway would be a welcome addition for his community.

"We're looking at it from the standpoint, it would help us alleviate 125, and the congestion on 50," Hiatt said. "But, it can also be done and probably connect, I know a lot of Anderson and lot of East Siders that go that way already and if that speeds them up, that would keep them off of 125, off of 50 and helps our community quite a bit."

"I think the major issue here is making sure that we're bringing together," Simpson said. "The people who are most affected by this."

Simpson said there was progress at the hearing.

"I think they're already hearing," she said. "The original proposal was for 55 miles per hour, already we're talking about 45 miles per hour, we're getting so close to the 35 miles per hour being proposed by Madisonville, which I think is certainly where we want to be."

"I always thought that I'd be dead before they did anything with Red Bank," joked Igoe. "I'm starting to wonder if that will be the case."

Money U.S. Representative Jean Schmidt is helping to secure right now will get the project moving some time in 2012.

There are resolutions from both Hyde Park and Oakley's Community Councils both supporting Madisonville's efforts.

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