State fast tracks local projects including MLK/I-71 interchange

COLUMBUS, OH (FOX19) - A state board paved the way Thursday for $3 billion worth of transportation projects in Ohio including major Tri-State improvements.

The state's Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) unanimously gave preliminary approval for Governor Kasich's Jobs and Transportation Plan.

The plan includes $1.5 billion in funding from bonds backed by Ohio Turnpike profits. The rest will come from federal, state and local funding.

Among the transportation projects that made the list is the $107 million MLK/I-71 interchange.

The MLK/1-71 Uptown study currently falls under TRAC's Tier 1 contingency program. Transportation officials anticipate they will get environmental clearance for the project in late November.

Construction could begin in 2014. This is the first year the TRAC board has created a contingency list of projects that are not shovel ready.

"It's an unbelievable feeling, and I believe I can say that for a lot of stakeholders and residents in Walnut Hills who have been at the table talking about this for years," Kevin Wright told FOX19.

Wright is the Executive Director of the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation which has been working to breathe life back into the neighborhood. He has been at the table throughout the interchange project planning process which has narrowed down the plans down to Alternative 2 which has become the recommended option.

"This seems to be the alternative that does the least amount of damage to property on both sides of the interstate," Wright said.

Currently, TRAC plans to fund $60 million of the project but they are counting on $48 million locally. $20 million is tied to the city's parking lease which has yet to be finalized with the Port Authority. The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) says they are meeting with project stakeholders to try and generate the rest.

"I would find it difficult to find a scenario where when we have such broad support at the state level where we don't find some way to finance it locally," Wright said.

Other Southwest Ohio projects on the list as Tier 1 construction commitments include:

  • I-75 at Glendale-Milford and Shepherd Through the Valley project funding
  • I-75 Mill Creek Expressway phase 5 and 6 funding.

Tier 2 projects currently under development include:

  • Upgraded interchange at I-71 and Western Row Rd.
  • Rail grade separation and Grand Boulevard extension
  • Grade separation from North Fairfield Road to Xenia bypass
  • Modification of the interchange at I-71 and Fields-Ertel

The following are Tier 3/multi-phase projects with some development completed and are connected to a phase of Tier 1 construction commitment:

  • Phase 3 improvement of I-275/SR 32 interchange
  • Grade separation Eastgate Boulevard to old SR74
  • New connector from Red Bank Road to Bells Lane
  • Creation for a passenger rail line in Cincinnati: Oasis Rail Eastern Corridor
  • Control of access on Red Bank Road from US 50 to I-71
  • "Through the Valley" project phases 3-7 and the addition of a fourth lane on I-75 between Paddock and Kemper.
  • Mill Creek Express project phases 8 and 8a

The Brent Spence Bridge project is listed as a tier three "innovative delivery project". According to the TRAC list, no money had been allocated for the Ohio share of the bridge's main span which is estimated at $117.6 million. TRAC has budgeted $67.8 million for approach work in Ohio, but $947.7 million in funding has yet to be identified. Finally, TRAC is funding $4.7 million for preliminary engineering along with $10.1 million in ODOT funding and $9.9 million in local funding.

Written public comments will be accepted until August 16 and can be sent to, or to the Ohio Department of Transportation, C/O Jim Gates, 1980 West Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43223.

In September, the TRAC board is expected to vote to finalize the list.

Construction from some projects could begin later this year.

TRAC has been in place since 1997 and helps guide the project selection process for ODOT investments over $12 million.

All major, new budget amounts are subject to further federal authorization and turnpike bond sales.

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