By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer
COVINGTON - Nearly 20years after improvements to 12th Street were first proposed, there is widespread support for a plan to improve the city gateway marked by heavy truck traffic and blighted or vacant buildings.
Covington City Commission gave its unanimous support this week to widening 12th Street to two lanes in each direction, adding a median of undetermined width, allowing parallel parking on both sides, and adding turn lanes where warranted.
The vote was needed before the issue went before the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments. OKI will consider on Nov. 14 whether to add the latest proposal for improving 12th Street to its long-range plan for transportation improvements.
"We have been in a long fight getting to this place,'' Bill Clark, president of the Westside Action Coalition, told Covington City Commission. "It's a unique situation where we now have the city government, the Covington Business Council, and all the residents on the same page along with the department of transportation. We're real excited about that.''
Project engineer Mike Bezold, of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's Northern Kentucky office, said that a new traffic study shows that 12th Street - now used by about 20,000 vehicles a day - would have to accommodate 23,000 vehicles a day by 2028, or 10,000 more than called for in the last traffic analysis, done in 1993.
Because of those revised usage figures, highway officials have decided that a four-lane street is needed, instead of a two-lane boulevard with a 44-foot median.
"This project's long overdue,'' Commissioner Alex Edmondson said, adding city officials need to promote the vitality of downtown.
Although Commissioners Craig Bohman and J.T. Spence, both members of the highway department's historic mitigation committee, had opposed previous plans for improving 12th Street, both said the latest proposal was better thought out and has community input.
"When I came onto the commission ... I never understood why we were going to keep the same number of lanes and do damage to several historic districts just to put in a grass strip,'' said Mr. Bohman, a first-term commissioner. "Now with all the new traffic numbers and with a different configuration, the state has made a very good case to examine the need for a four-lane road.''
Although Mr. Bohman voted to send the plan to OKI for review, he said that he still has concerns about what will happen to land on the south side of 12th Street when buildings are torn down. Mr. Bohman said he also wants to make sure that the assets of any historic districts that the road runs through are protected, but he added those issues "are best addressed by the historic mitigation committee,'' which is scheduled to resume meeting early next year.
Mr. Spence said the City Commission has made more progress on the 12th Street issue in the last four years than in the previous 16. He added the commission's vote on a plan "which is totally different'' from those proposed in the past is not necessarily approval, but a request for OKI to review the state's proposal for 12th Street.
"I'm very pleased the mitigation process is beginning again,'' Mr. Spence said. "We're going to have the community involved, and we're going to finally put this thing to bed.''
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