Friday, February 01, 2002

Bus lanes advised for Kenton Co.

Transport task force gets look at proposal for several routes

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        CRESTVIEW HILLS — Regional planners envision the day when buses will have separate lanes to take passengers from southern Kenton County to Covington.

        The first step was Thursday, when an official with the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) presented the Kenton County Transportation Task Force with a plan for a Bus Rapid Transit system.

        “It has a lot of potential for Kenton County and the rest of Northern Kentucky,” said Dory Montazemi, deputy executive director at OKI.

        “You can't find land to add (regular motor vehicle) lanes; you'll end up in court. BRT combines the quality of rail transit with the flexibility of buses.”

        Mr. Montazemi said the first thing Kenton County should do is alter its comprehensive plan to preserve 15 feet of right-of-way on both sides of roads for dedicated bus lanes, which future developers would have to include in their drawings.

        If BRT falls through, he said, the extra space could be used for light rail or another vehicle lane.

        Officials in Boone and Campbell counties have not yet seen Mr. Montazemi's plan. BRT's next step in Kenton County is a presentation before the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission.

        No timetables or cost estimates for the system were mentioned Thursday. NKAPC's Marshall Slagle said an OKI report should be ready within a month.

        Mr. Montazemi said a BRT could be installed in Kenton County along:

        Three north-south corridors: Ky. 17 through Independence; Ky. 16 through Taylor Mill; and Ky. 1303 near Edgewood.

        One southern county east-west road, Ky. 536, which links the three north-south roads.

        On the shoulders of interstates 275 and 75, which the buses would use during rush hours.

        Besides the 15-foot set-aside, Mr. Montazemi said Kenton County zoning would need to allow higher-density residential and business uses to support BRT ridership.

        Mr. Montazemi said BRT-type systems have been in place for years in 17 U.S. cities, including Pittsburgh and Cleveland, as well as in Australia, South America and Canada.

        Bob Grove of the Port Authority of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh said the first of four BRT lines opened there in 1977. He said bus ridership averages at least 50,000 per day, including about 27,000 from downtown Pittsburgh to the eastern suburbs.

        “That's higher than our light-rail system,” Mr. Grove said.

        Edgewood Mayor John Link, a task force member, liked the concept. “It will increase (property) values,” Mr. Link said. “You'll get people faster to entertainment centers in Covington and Newport, to (Northern Kentucky University) for classes.


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