Monday, May 01, 2000

FWW construction nearing the end of the road

But engineers warn that the work that remains could be the most disruptive - and confusing - for commuters

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

East to west view of Fort Washington Way construction, expected to be completed by the end of August.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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        Cincinnati's largest unfinished road project is heading down the home stretch, but the final four months could be among the most troublesome and confusing for commuters.

        Fort Washington Way reconstruction is spilling into downtown streets, closing several north of Third Street.

        In addition, several one-way streets will be opened temporarily to two-way traffic during the last phases of construction.

        “This next phase of work will be a little more disruptive,” said Fred Craig, vice president for Parsons Brinckerhoff Ohio, the lead consultant on the project.

        The $308 million project is meant to straighten, narrow and make safer the downtown expressway.

Construction schedule
        That price also buys a better sewer system underneath the roadway, opens 14 acres for developers to build the Reds ballpark, and constructs a new transit center and a new Second Street.

        Mr. Craig said the project is on schedule to be finished by the end of August. It does not appear, however, that the roadway will be open in time for the Bengals' first preseason game Aug. 19.

When finished, there will be overpass bridges at Main, Walnut, Vice, Race and Elm Streets.
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        City Engineer John Deatrick said there was never a promise to have the roadway open in time for that game. The real deadline, he said, is the end of August so that crews can get ready to start knocking down a piece of Cinergy Field to build the new ballpark.

        “There are lots and lots of interrelated pieces that have to be done,” Mr. Deatrick said. “We're still on track to finish by the end of August, and we're trying to do better than that. But we still don't have a final date.”

        Hamilton County Commissioner John Dowlin said he is surprised that there has not been much criticism over Fort Washington Way's budget increasing. Three years ago the project's cost was set at $146 million.

        The county has taken a lot of heat since announcing $45 million in cost overruns at Paul Brown Stadium.

        The road project's budget has ballooned because of additions that engineers say make it better — such as the sewer system and construction of a transit center.

        With four months to deadline, there still is a staggering amount of work being compressed on the three-quarter mile road stretching from the Interstate 71-75 Brent Spence Bridge through the I-71 Lytle Tunnel.

        Mr. Craig said components of the new Second Street are being put together in precast pieces off-site. The materials will be shipped to the riverfront in the next two weeks and will be put together very rapidly, he said.

        The floodwall is nearly complete, and crews are beginning to pour asphalt so the elevation of downtown streets matches the overpasses spanning Fort Washington Way.

        A breakdown of some related costs with the road project include:

        • $32 million to make the Third Street Viaduct wider and safer.

        • $10.5 million for sewer improvements to reduce the number of sewage overflows into the Ohio River.

        • $26.5 million for a two-tiered Second Street with buses running underneath and cars and possibly light rail on top.

        Over the past two years, more than 3 million tons of steel from bridges and roadways have been removed to clear the way for the new thoroughfare.

        “We're going to end up with more transportation taking place in less space, that's the payoff,” Mr. Deatrick said. “That's very valuable land, and now there's more of it for ballparks and development.”


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