Saturday, May 22, 1999

Light rail to need new bridge

Clay Wade dismissed as not suitable

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        If light rail becomes a reality, a new bridge likely will span the Ohio River.

        The Clay Wade Bailey bridge isn't a good option for an electric-powered train to cross from Cincinnati to Covington, according to a study completed as part of preliminary engineering for a light-rail line from Covington to Blue Ash in the Interstate 71 corridor.

        Putting light rail on the bridge would eliminate a lane of traffic at a time when traffic volume is expected to increase. Also, the bridge would provide only one track for light rail, meaning only one light-rail train could cross the bridge at a time.

        Committee members are scheduled to vote on the bridge recommendation Thursday. But light-rail planners likely will be left trying to figure out where to build a bridge, what it will look like and how much it would cost.

        “We're not tying ourselves to any one idea,” said Bernie Moorman, chairman of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Government's committee looking at light rail in the Interstate 71 corridor.

        The biggest challenge for planners: Finding a spot for the bridge to touch down.

        “As you can see, the river fronts are filling up,” OKI Executive Director Jim Duane said.

        “The bridge is going to have to be as narrow as can be,” Mr. Moorman added.

        There aren't any concrete details on options, and costs haven't been figured yet. But one thing planners are looking at is building a bridge just to the east of the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge, which touches down west of Central Avenue in Cincinnati and connects to Main Street in Covington.

        That option could affect a Bengals practice field, Mr. Moorman said. OKI officials are talking with Bengals' representatives about the potential problems and solutions, he said.

        Using the railroad bridges or any other existing bridges aren't a likely possibility, Mr. Duane said.

        Light rail still has to go through several steps before the first 18 miles of a system could be built in Greater Cincinnati. Initial estimates are $600 million for the Covington-to-Blue Ash line.

        The project is in a preliminary engineering study now to find out the best routes, improve cost estimates and determine environmental impacts.

        When that study is complete in late 2000 or early 2001, OKI members will decide whether to go into final design — and will need to get local money in place to pay for the line.

        On that schedule, the system could be completed as early as 2008.


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