Tuesday, May 15, 2001

Big Mac Bridge likely to be big mess

Southbound lane closes today

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Spanning the Ohio River on the eastern edge of downtown Cincinnati, the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge provides a sweeping panorama of hills, river and skyline. Enjoy the view. You might be there awhile.

        This morning, the left southbound lane of Interstate 471 — which connects I-71 and the bridge — will close, reducing traffic from three lanes to two.

        Northbound traffic recently was reduced on the Beard Bridge, or Big Mac, from four lanes to two.

        Those two closed lanes on Monday made for lengthy backups for Northern Kentucky residents heading downtown during morning rush hour. Their return home is about to get worse because today the ramp from Liberty Street downtown to I-471 southbound will be narrowed to 10 feet.

        The work is the first phase of a $15.4 million project that involves ramp and bridge reinforcement and repaving in both directions. It is the Ohio Department of Transportation's most important project in 2001 in Greater Cincinnati, with a fast-track completion date of Halloween.

        Due largely to residential growth in Northern Kentucky and Clermont County, average daily traffic counts on the Big Mac have increased five-fold since 1978, from 17,190 to 96,360 last year.

        For commuters from Clermont, taking Interstate 275 into Northern Kentucky, then connecting with I-471 and the Big Mac Bridge isn't the shortest route — but it is the quickest.

        “It's going to take some extra time; leave for work early,” construction worker Greg Fields said Monday afternoon as he dismantled the old sealer and expansion joints that bind the bridge to I-471.

        Pam Graham of Fort Thomas has another approach: She avoids the Big Mac and I-471 whenever she can.

        “I stay over here. Getting to Kenwood, I use it because you can get right on 71. But if it's down to two lanes, it's going to be a pain.”


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