Friday, March 7, 2003

Industrial Road to gain girth

$12M project will add lanes, bike path, sidewalks

By William Croyle
Enquirer contributor

[photo] Traffic along Industrial Road in Florence.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
FLORENCE - With 217 businesses and 14,000 employees, the Northern Kentucky Industrial Park stretches almost 3 miles through two counties and three cities.

Industrial Road, the main artery leading to the industrial park, is about to get a major overhaul.

And not a minute too soon, say commuters. The artery, which goes from Turkeyfoot Road in Independence to U.S. 42 in Florence, carries 17,000 vehicles a day, more than the 42-year-old, two-lane road was built to serve.

Twenty-minute traffic delays on the road are common during the work week, and two pedestrians have been killed in the past year attempting to cross the street.

"We're going to put sidewalks on both sides and a bike path, which are essential to this road," said Boone County Judge-executive Gary Moore. "Many employees there take the bus and have to walk on the gravel or grass once they're dropped off to get to work. Safety is a very big concern."

Using $10 million in federal funds and another $2 million contributed by the recipients of the park's payroll taxes - Boone County, Kenton County, Elsmere, Independence and Florence - the road will receive a $12 million face lift beginning in the fall.

"Widening Industrial Road will not only ease traffic congestion, but it will help to fuel the economic growth in Northern Kentucky that has proved vital to business throughout the commonwealth," said U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Southgate.

Bunning obtained the federal money for the project from a fund set up 16 years ago to build a new bridge between Covington and Cincinnati. The bridge was never built, so Bunning decided to direct the money toward improving Industrial Road.

In addition to the industrial park, there are three apartment complexes on the road. Some of the biggest companies in the park are Eagle Mfg., Mazak Corp., and Mubea Co.

According to the Tri-County Economic Development Corp. (Tri-ED), Industrial Road was constructed for tractor-trailers no longer than 40 feet. Many tractor-trailers today are 53 feet long.

"This road was built to 1960s standards, and the trucks have gotten a lot bigger since then, making it hard for them to turn," said Ken Schmidt, president of BAWAC, a vocational rehabilitation center that has been in the industrial park for 27 years.

Schmidt is also the president of the Northern Kentucky Industrial Park Management Council, a group formed in 1971 by business executives in the park. They have surveyed industrial parks throughout the Midwest, measuring area, employees and other amenities.

Northern Kentucky Industrial Park, with its millions of square feet of building space and 14,000 employees, took the top measure.

But size isn't everything.

Of the 13 million square feet of building space in the park, 2 million square feet are unoccupied.

"We have empty buildings and land for sale that nobody will buy. People come to look at the land, get into that traffic, and they want no part of it," Schmidt said.

At an evening open house this week, community members affected got a look at the project.

Industrial Road will be widened to three lanes from Turkeyfoot Road to U.S. 25, and to five lanes from U.S. 25 to U.S. 42.

The turning radii will also be improved at six Industrial Road intersections - U.S. 25, Foundation Drive, Empire Drive, Kentucky Drive, Production Drive and Holton Drive.

The five government entities with a financial stake in the park agreed to put up $2 million.

Unincorporated Boone County, where nearly half the park is located, put up $941,800. Kenton County followed with $377,200, while the three cities combined for the remaining $681,000.

"This is a critical project for our city," said Independence Mayor Chris Moriconi.

"A lot of people think most of our money comes from property taxes, but it comes more from payroll taxes. We want to keep businesses in the industrial park happy, and hopefully we can add some businesses to the area."

Boone County Administrator Jim Parsons said the project should begin this fall and will take about 18 months to complete

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