Thursday, October 05, 2000

Second Street inching toward completion - maybe

Walnut-to-Main section to open next

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Another section of delay-plagued Second Street should open sometime this weekend, a city official said Wednesday.

        But he declined to offer many specifics.

        “We're taking a new tack with the media and the contractor and not overpromising things,” said Cincinnati Transportation Director John Deatrick, who said Saturday morning was the goal for the opening of the section between Walnut and Main streets.

        Second Street, counted on to handle the west-to-east local traffic formerly routed along Fort Washington Way, has been the main trouble spot in the $314 million project.

        The city's contract with S.E. Johnson of Maumee, Ohio, called for the street to open on Aug. 15, along with the rest of the project.

        The initial section connecting Elm, Race and Vine streets to the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge, Inter state 71/75 north and U.S. 50 east opened a week later than Third Street and the main Fort Washington Way trench.

        Completion was delayed twice more last month, the most recent coming last week, and the delays have meant continued downtown congestion, especially along Fifth Street during rush hour.

        Mr. Deatrick said the new section should be connected to Vine by the end of next week, but he made no promises.

        He also said the goal is to have ramps at the eastern end of Second that connect to Broadway Street, Pete Rose Way, I-71 north, I-471 south and Columbia Parkway (U.S. 50) east done by the end of the month, but again he would not commit to a date.

        He said S.E. Johnson made some management changes, helping pick up the pace last week.

        “They've brought a fresh spirit to things, and we're a lot more optimistic,” Mr. Deatrick said.

        The entire project — including all eight lanes of the main highway connecting I-71 and I-75 — is not expected to be finished until the end of the year.

        S.E. Johnson general counsel Jack Zouhary warned that the cold weather forecast this weekend could slow things down again, but he said the new dates should be met.

        “We've caught our breath and it's time to go forward,” he said.

        The opening of the new section will create two major changes: the conversion of the Walnut Street bridge across Fort Washington Way from two-way to one-way south, and the removal of the eastbound bus lanes on Third Street between Walnut and Main.

        Mr. Deatrick and Mr. Zouhary said the dispute over who caused the delay is on the back burner until the project is finished.

        The city claims S.E. Johnson owes $15,000 for each day after the missed Aug. 15 deadline. The contractor blames the city and wants $15 million in damages.


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