Council members weigh in on new Brent Spence bridge design

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Tuesday Ohio's Department of Transportation presented the latest information regarding the Brent Spence Bridge replacement project to members of city council.

"I think that there's a strong desire on the part of virtually all the members of our community that this really be an iconic structure that brands Cincinnati and the greater Cincinnati area," Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls said.

Currently, ODOT has zeroed in on three main bridge options. The first alternative has a design that features an arch across the bridge. Another option is a design with a single tower cable system. The third option is a two tower cable system.

"This is going to be something that is going to identify the City of Cincinnati," Council member Chris Bortz said. "We have an opportunity to either throw it away and people ignore it or it becomes iconic, architecturally significant, and a value to our community can be proud of for generations to come. "

Bortz says now is the time to ask questions about possible changes to the design.

"If it's not impossible and it doesn't add too much additional cost then I think changing the traffic flow is worth looking at," Bortz said.

He asked the project's manager if traffic pattern could be changed to let people coming into Cincinnati take the top level view, unlike the current flow on the Brent Spence Bridge.

"As you're coming into the city you're kind of stuck in this tunnel," he said. "You don't get to see the skyline of the city."

"It's going to be very difficult," ODOT project manager Stefan Spinosa said. "We've looked at a bunch of different configurations so I don't anticipate that happening but it's something that we can go back and take another check at."

Spinosa said making the switch could impact exit ramps and access points, but that there are some changes that can be made without adding much cost.

"If you're adding extraneous items them you're adding cost. If you're just talking textures, or colors, or the way you mound the dirt there's minimal cost increases to those," Spinosa said.

According to ODOT the next step in the process is to hold public hearing on the project in the early part of 2012. They hope to have the environmental clearance for the project by next summer. After that, the focus will turn to detail design and buying up the right of way needed for construction. Planners hope to see construction begin in 2015.

"In order for that schedule to be kept the federal government has to fund the project and the states of Ohio and Kentucky have to come up with their local match," Qualls said.

Currently, no state of federal funds have been designated for the project.

"Everyone would like to put the projects on hold because no one wants to talk about the price tag these projects have," Qualls said. "But high quality infrastructure, modern infrastructure is essential for economic competitiveness, its essential for business and job growth, it's essential for the viability of the city and the region."

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