Regional transportation officials have chosen a preferred plan for the roadway layout needed to construct the new Ohio River Bridge project.
Transportation officials say the plan, alternative "I", is less expensive than other option. They say it is better for the environment, and it will have the least amount of impact on nearby homes and businesses. Under the plan, 54 residences and businesses would be in jeopardy of displacement while 109 would be in question under alternative "E".
The 7.8 mile reconstruction would start just north of the Western Hills Viaduct and end a mile south of Dixie Highway in Fort Mitchell.
Historic areas such as Longworth hall and Goebel Park would be only slightly impacted by the reconstruction.
The cost for the highway and road reconstruction is estimated at $1.7 billion dollars. In addition, the work to be done on the existing bridge will cost 73.5 million, a new bridge to stand alongside the old one will cost $730 million, bringing the grand total for the project to nearly $2.5 billion
Under the preferred plan, a number of Covington residents would no longer have to worry about losing their homes.
Trula Thornton and her husband raised their four sons at their house on Western Avenue. While the current preferred plan would spare her house, Thornton isn't holding her breath. She also is not worrying about it either.
"I always believe what's going to happen is going to happen and all the worry in the world is not going to stop it," Thornton said.
While they may not be able to stop it, Covington officials are hoping to modify the projects plans.
"We want to make sure the decision they make now, even if the project isn't built for another five or ten years, is one that works for the city," assistant city engineer Mike Yeager explained.
Yeager says walk-in traffic off the Brent Spence brings in big money for area businesses.
"We're talking in the tens of millions of dollars every year just for the hotels alone," he said.
The biggest concern in the preferred plan is limited access to Fifth Street compared to the current exit configurations.
"[Going Northbound] you'd have to get off at 12th Street, go on a local road likely through a series of three signals before you could even get downtown," Yeager explained.
He says heading southbound drivers would have to decide at the Museum Center that they want to exit in Covington.
"We're concerned with the people passing by that once they see Covington, they see Kentucky, [and] they cross the bridge that they don't have a chance to get into the city," he said.
"If they have to go out to Kyles Lane or out to 12th Street they won't come back," Randy Gearding said. "They just won't do it."
Gearding is the owner of Riverfront Pizza in Covington. At Riverfront, they bank on the lunch business that comes off the Brent Spence Bridge.
"They come right off the exit, make a loop and go right back on when they're done," Gearding explained.
Losing traffic could be a recipe for disaster in still tough economic times.
"If you're already down 10 to 12 percent then you add another three, four, five percent it'll be putting some of these smaller places like us out of business probably if it gets bad enough," Gearding said.
In addition to the roadway design, transportation planners still need to decide on a bridge. One option is a design with a single tower cable system. The second alternative has a design that features an arch across the bridge. A third option is a design with a two tower cable system.
In each case, the existing Brent Spence Bridge will remain.
Transportation officials will be hosting public hearings to get the community's input on the potential road design options.
The first will take place on April 24th at Longworth Hall on Pete Rose Way. The second is planned for April 25 at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center. The meetings will be held from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM.