Mayor introduces 2-year, $17M fix for Columbia Parkway landslide problems

Mayor: $17M to stop landslides

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Mayor John Cranley unveiled a two-year solution Wednesday for landslide problems at one of the city’s most heavily-traveled roads.

He introduced a $17 million fix at the expense of taxpayers.

City Council passed the initial $750,000 in funding later in the day at their weekly meeting.

“I won’t put Band-aid on it or kick the can down the road," Cranley said. “This clear issue is bigger than a temporary fix.”

He said he knows it will be a major inconvenience to thousands of drivers who take the main east-west thoroughfare connects Downtown with the eastern side of the city and Hamilton County.

But, he said, he promised to fix the problems.

As the mayor held a news conference on the road, crews behind him cut trees to try to prevent more landslides.

“Be prepared for two years of delays and restricted access. At a minimum- keep two lanes open, one in each direction at a time, but at times all of Columbia Parkway will be closed,” he said.

Cranley acknowledged landslides have been a challenge for decades.

“Rainfall over the last 20 years... no question this is a climate change consequence that will cost the taxpayers,” he said.

Cranley said he hopes work will start within a few weeks and in a couple of days expects to have one lane open on the parkway in both directions.

The city has applied for emergency federal funds and is crunching numbers now to see what the potential impact will be to other city projects and its bond rating if it takes more debt for the project.

Cranley said Columbia Parkway is a state route, and they will apply for “any and every grant.”

But those funds would be reimbursement ones, not ahead of time, noted City Manager Patrick Duhaney.

City officials said no homes are at risk.

But Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman worries that might not always be the case.

WATCH LIVE: Mayor to address Columbia Parkway landslide problems -- https://bit.ly/2TDf2eX

Posted by FOX19 on Wednesday, March 27, 2019

“It’s the right thing to do. Every capital project the city is looking at right now should be on the table to fix it,” he told FOX19 NOW in an interview Wednesday morning.

“We have infrastructure there to support those homes before Columbia Parkway was built, and that infrastructure is failing. It’s just a matter of time before we lose homes up there."

Last week, Smitherman introduced a motion declaring the situation on Columbia Parkway an emergency.

The road is at least partially shut a few times a week so crews can clear debris from the road.

The westbound lanes were closed the last few days between William Howard Taft Road and Kemper Lane.

Police have said officers are manually running traffic lights along some of the side streets to help with traffic flow.

One westbound lane reopened Wednesday afternoon.

Smitherman said he took action because he feared more rain this spring would result in more landslides that will have a devastating impact on homeowners in the area and drivers.

Building a new, higher retaining wall to replace the one holding back the hill and protecting the road that is “failing” will cost about $10 million, City Manager Patrick Duhaney wrote in a recent memo to Council.

More immediate work is needed and that would cost much less but still require a hefty price tag of an estimated $700,000 to $1 million, Smitherman has said.

The city has been looking into whether they can receive federal funds.

Last week, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency in 37 counties including Hamilton County over road damage.

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