Friday, April 09, 1999

Newport asks for link to light rail

Connection to Cincinnati vital, city says

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        With more than 2 million visitors expected to pour into Newport after the opening of new attractions, including the aquarium, city officials want a 1-mile light rail line from their city to downtown Cincinnati.

        Newport City Manager Phillip G. Ciafardini Thursdayasked the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) board members to consider the spur.

        As preliminary engineering studies begin on light rail proposed along the I-71 corridor, Newport is one of a growing number of communities that want to know when it could run through their part of town.

        Newport, though, is the first to make an official request.

        “There's an extremely vital link that needs to be made from the Cincinnati riverfront to the Newport riverfront,” Mr. Ciafardini told OKI board members Thursday.

        There are regional plans to study light rail in other parts of the region, including a line from downtown Cincinnati to Northern Kentucky University. But there isn't a timetable yet.

        “Rail consciousness has become evident in the region,” OKI Executive Director Jim Duane said. “We have raised so much awareness with the I-71 corridor, we need to put a plan out there. We will have that for you soon.”

        In addition to the $40 million Oceanic Adventures Newport Aquarium scheduled to open May 15, a 20-screen cinema and a 3-D IMAX theater also are being planned.

        “We consider Newport part of the urban core of Greater Cincinnati,” Mr. Ciafardini said.

        Newport's request came as OKI board members Thursday voted to extend the first phase of light rail being studied for the I-71 corridor 2 miles north to Blue Ash's northern corporation line.

        Earlier OKI studies showed that a 33-mile light rail line between the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport and Paramount's Kings Island would be the best option along the I-71 corridor.

        In January, preliminary engineering started on a 16-mile stretch from 12th Street in Covington to Pfeiffer Road in Blue Ash. But because so many offices have been built in Blue Ash north of Pfeiffer Road and more are planned, Blue Ash city officials asked that the first phase of the $600 million project be extended.

        The 2 miles are part of the proposed 33-mile system, and money is already in place to

        pay for the preliminary engineering, said Warner Moore, the I-71 committee's project manager for OKI.

        It's unclear how much the 2 miles would add to the cost of the $600 million project if OKI votes to build the light rail line when preliminary engineering studies are done in late 2000 or early 2001.

        Although no communities have made the formal light rail request that Newport did, there have been grumblings about when light rail may be considered for other places along I-75 and Western Hamilton County.

        OKI's eastern corridor study has already recommended rail from downtown Cincinnati to Interstate 275 in Clermont County near Milford.

        OKI's 2020 Metropolitan Transportation Plan, a thick document that outlines transportation needs, includes plans to study light rail along I-75 from downtown Cincinnati north to I-275; from Cincinnati to Cheviot and from Cincinnati to Northern Kentucky University via the L&N Bridge.


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