Thursday, July 12, 2001

Ramp opening rates a party

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It's not just another loop a lot of people waited three years to use.

        That's why city of Cincinnati officials will make a public thank-you today to Northern Kentucky communities for their cooperation during the closure of the loop ramp from Interstate 471 north to Fort Washington Way and Third Street.

        The ceremonial “thank you,” at 3 p.m. at Riverboat Row behind Don Pablo's in Newport, will be followed by a TANK bus trip across the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge and onto the newly opened ramp.

        The loop allows motorists to get into lower downtown without having to battle Liberty Street, the detour route, or Sixth Street. Both are typically congested during workdays.

        “That's huge. It's been out so long that I forgot it used to be open,” Steve Herrera, 30, of Wilder, said Wednesday night as he left Don Pablo's. “It was just a pain getting west, to (Interstate) 75.”

        No need to tell that to Patrick Jones of Williamsburg in Clermont County. He drives a taxi for a living.

        “When I saw that it was open, my eyes lit up,” said Mr. Jones, who leases a Yellow Taxi. “Now it's just so much easier. Before, you had to go Sixth Street, and hit all the lights. For Reds games, it's a lot easier.”

        He previously worked 1 1/2 years for an east side cab company, with regular runs to the west side. It was a nightmare.

        “I had a guy, a regular customer, from the east side who on weekends went to see his kids in Colerain,” he explained as he idled in front of a downtown hotel Wednesday night. “It was not good.”

        The ceremony today is also a way to look ahead, as Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky have several upcoming projects together, including the L&N Bridge. The 130-year-old bridge will be refurbished as a pedestrian walkway between the Cincinnati waterfront and Newport on the Levee.

        “It's symbolic of the cooperation that got us to where we are, but also the cooperation we need to parlay in the future,” John Deatrick, Cincinnati transportation director, said Wednesday from Chicago, where he was attending a conference. “The L&N Bridge, that's really critical for both sides.”

        The ramp was originally closed as part of the $32 million Third Street viaduct project, but its completion was well-timed with the Ohio Department of Transportation's ongoing reconfiguration of I-471.

        The $15.4 million ODOT project began this spring and is expected to be done by Oct. 31. ODOT completed the loop ramp work last week, spokeswoman Kim Patton said.

        “It was almost perfect, the timing,” Mr. Deatrick said.

        Due largely to residential growth in Northern Kentucky, traffic on the Beard Bridge, or Big Mac, has increased five-fold since 1978, from 17,190 to 96,360 last year.

        Today's ceremony is open to the public.


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