Sunday, March 2, 2003

No ideal solutions


Light rail? Add lanes? Fix interchanges? They'd only slow worsening congestion

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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So can anything be done about this outdated, congested highway?

Engineers and planners have been trying to answer that question for Southwest Ohio for more than two years. As a $4 million study by the region's transportation planning agency winds down, numerous solutions have been considered, but all have drawbacks. None would reduce traffic; each would just slow down how fast congestion grows.

Among options:

• A light rail line stretching from downtown to at least Evendale and perhaps beyond, to West Chester and into Butler County. This is at least a $1 billion project. And Hamilton County voters last fall overwhelmingly rejected a new sales tax to help fund light rail for the entire county.

• A fourth lane of highway added to each side of the interstate north of the Ohio River to I-275. This would cost nearly $500 million, and experts say traffic would be just as bad as it is now within seven years of the lanes being built.

• A combination of light rail and new highway lanes.

• Modifying the existing roadway and improving major interchanges, many of which are not up to current design standards.

The study, which began in fall 2000, is being done for the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments. The transportation planning agency must approve any I-75 work before a project can receive federal funds.

An oversight committee is not considering any substantial roadwork on I-75 in Northern Kentucky. The stretch of interstate inside the I-275 beltway there underwent a massive $106 million reconstruction during the 1990s. In addition, I-275 is being widened in Boone County, and I-75 has been widened south of the beltway.

The oversight committee will consider the economic costs and benefits of each Ohio option later this month, recommending next steps to the agency's board.




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