Wednesday, August 02, 2000

Traffic relief in sight

Fort Washington Way near completion on major links

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The major parts of the $314 million renovation of Fort Washington Way will open Aug. 14 and 18, officials are expected to tell City Council today.

        It will be the first time definitive dates have been given since construction started two years ago.

Aug. 14 (5 a.m.)
  • Mainline highway connecting Interstates 71 and 75, two lanes in each direction.
  • Third Street switches direction, becomes a one-way, east-to-west street.
  • Elm Street bridge opens to pedestrian traffic.

Aug. 18
  • Second Street, a new one-way, west-to-east street, between Elm and Vine streets.
  • Bridges connecting Elm, Vine, and Race) streets to Second (Walnut already open; Main to open later in the month).
  • Ramp from I-75 south and U.S. 50 east to Second.
  • Ramp from I-71/75 north (Brent Spence Bridge) to Second.
  • Ramp from U.S. 50 west to Fort Washington Way west.
  • Ramp from U.S. 50 west to Third.
  • Ramp from Third to I-71/75 south.
  • Ramp from Clay Wade Bailey Bridge to Second.

By end of month
  • Second Street from Vine to Main streets.
  • Main Street bridge across Fort Washington Way to Second.
  • Ramp from Second and Main to Broadway/Pete Rose Way intersection.
        The dates are on a memo written Tuesday by city Transportation Director John Deatrick to City Manager John Shirey, who confirmed the memo existed but would not give specifics.

        According to those familiar with the memo, the main portion of the downtown freeway will open at 5 a.m. Aug. 14 with two wider, 12-foot lanes in both directions. The highway will eventually have four lanes in each direction.

        At the same time, Third Street will switch direction to run east-to-west.

        The ban on wide vehicles also will be lifted, although it was not clear whether the ramp from I-75 northbound onto Fort Washington Way will continue to be restricted to one lane.

        Then, on Aug. 18, a new Second Street that runs west-to-east will open from Elm to Vine streets. Also opening is a series of new ramps at either end of the highway, along with the bridges that span the mainline and connect Elm, Vine and Race streets with Second Street.

        Mr. Shirey is expected to tell City Council today of the new dates.

        Mr. Deatrick declined comment, saying he wanted to lay out specifics to City Council during today's meeting.

        Both are scheduled to attend a press conference this afternoon to release the opening dates.

        Previously, officials would commit only to the end of August for an opening. The new plan allows the mainline throughway and Second and Third Streets to be open by Aug. 19, the date of the first preseason game at Paul Brown Stadium.

        The Elm Street bridge will be open to pedestrian traffic on Aug. 14, in time for stadium open houses scheduled for Aug. 16-17.

        City Councilman Paul Booth had not seen the memo, but said the issuing of dates was good news.

        “We've been shooting for having most of it ready by the 19th,” said Mr. Booth. “This to me means that it's on time.”

        Looking down Race Street toward the continuing construction Tuesday, Hamilton resident Susan Sarles said she doubted it would all be done on time.

        “I hope it does, because I take I-75 into work every day and it would make my life a whole lot easier,” said Ms. Sarles, who works downtown.

        To make sure the dates are met, planners are shutting down Fort Washington Way entirely over the next few nights — including from 10 p.m. tonight to 5 a.m. Thursday and again Thursday night.

        Third Street will be closed between the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge and Central Avenue from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Friday.



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