Monday, January 22, 2001

Your chance to gripe about FWW

        Check all over-ripe fruits and vegetables at the door. The people behind Fort Washington Way's redo are holding a question-and-answer session Wednesday at Christ Church Chapel, 318 E. Fourth Street.

        From 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., they'll listen to commuters' beefs about traffic problems. And, they'll try to make things better.

        So, hold your fire with the rotten tomatoes. The splatter of salad fruit can get noisy.

        “We want to be able to hear what people say about traffic flow south of Fifth Street,” said John Deatrick, Cincinnati's director of transportation and engineering as well as the engineer in charge of Fort Washington Way's overhaul.

        He will be joined by some of the make-over's designers and consultants. Together, they pulled off an amazing juggling act.

        They created a new Fort Washington Way — complete with bridges linking downtown and the riverfront. At the same time, a re-routed Third Street got a face lift, one stadium was built, another planned and Cinergy Field partially dismantled.

        Keep in mind, the project team also gave Greater Cincinnati drivers a massive migraine with traffic jams, road closings, lane changes and everyone's worst headache, orange barrels.

Tell all

        The members of the team want to hear feedback about their work. They want to fix what's wrong. The session is free. So, drop in anytime and sound off.

        But, watch your language. The session is being held in a house of worship.

        Unlike the time the project team met the public at Fountain Square on August 30, 1999, this meeting won't feature any fun and games.

        Held to mark the project's half-way point, the Fountain Square event encouraged road-rage warriors to take out their frustrations.

        Drivers lined up to beat on an orange barrel and soak officials in a dunking booth. John Deatrick went into the booth, suit and all. Hit the target, dunk the engineer.

        “People got real good at that real quick,” he told me. “I was landing in the water a lot and the weather wasn't that hot.” The suit he wore “is now a thing of the past.”

        Wish I could say the same for the frustration over Fort Washington Way.

Road work ahead

        The highway is still a work in progress. Exit ramps remain unfinished. One must be rebuilt. Signs confuse out-of-towners and locals alike. Horns honk. Drivers give single-digit salutes. The pavement's washboard effect turns parts of the highway into a Dramamine zone.

        John Deatrick expects to hear these complaints and more — maybe even a compliment — on Wednesday.

        “We never know what to expect. Some people do like the way the road takes them into town.”

        Even though the session will be held during lunchtime, no one's giving out milk and cookies.

        “Just maps,” said the engineer. “We want people to mark up a map, show how they get around downtown, note the trouble spots we must look at. Then, we'll give them another map for free.”

        Maps are nice. But, a dunking booth is better. It would attract a bigger crowd. The city could charge a dollar for three shots to dunk the engineer. The money raised would fill every pothole in town.

        Even without a dunking booth, John Deatrick's hoping for a good turnout. People will come — if they can figure out which exit to take off Fort Washington Way.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at (513 768-8379; fax 768-8340.


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