Public Meetings Set for $200M Western Hills Viaduct Replacement

Over 55,000 vehicles traverse the storied Western Hills Viaduct. The iconic art deco era viaduct, constructed as part of the Cincinnati Union Terminal project in 1932 replaced the older Harrison Avenue Viaduct.

The viaduct last saw renovation in 1977, almost twenty years after the eastern section was demolished to make way for Interstate 75, but over the last few years a team of city, county and consultant engineers have been studying ways to repair or replace the aging bridge.

The city’s Department of Transportation and Engineering (DOTE), Hamilton County Engineer’s Office and URS are working together to determine the future replacement of the aging viaduct. The team will be hosting two public meetings on Thursday to engage adjacent property owners and frequent users of the bridge on the process of replacing the viaduct.

westernhillsviaduct-1-5The Western Hills Viaduct is one of a few crucial road connections to the west side of the city.
Photo by Jake Mecklenborg for UrbanCincy.

Because of the amount of repairs needed to maintain the existing viaduct, the team is not considering continuing the use of the existing viaduct. Instead the team is looking to build a new viaduct just south of the Western Hills Viaduct.

Richard Szekeresh, Principal Structural Engineer with DOTE told UrbanCincy that there are a number of other projects and factors that constrain the teams ability to determine a suitable relocation alignment; such as the rail yard operations below the bridge, the Metropolitan Sewer District’s (MSD’s) Lick Run Valley Conveyance System project, and Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT’s) proposed new connection bridge from I-75 to the viaduct which is part of the Brent Spence Bridge project must be factored into the new location.

Additionally because of hillside grade issues at the McMillan and Central Parkway intersection a new alignment north of the existing viaduct would be extremely challenging and more expensive.

The team is studying whether to pursue another double-decker bridge or a single level span as the replacement alternative. Some private property will be affected along Harrison Avenue and Central Parkway along with the existing rail yard below the viaduct. Additionally, the team is looking for input on bicycle lanes and other transportation alternative improvements.

The design team hopes to have the engineering completed and a preferred alignment selected by 2014. The cost of the viaduct replacement would be an estimated $200 million. No funding has been identified and the project is not part of the Brent Spence Bridge project, even though it is in the northern edge of that section of the I-75 reconstruction project area.

Both of Thursday’s sessions will be at Cincinnati City Hall. One will be from 4pm to 5:30pm and the other from 6pm to 7:30pm. City Hall is accessible by the #1, #6 and #49 Metro buses.

Szekeresh concluded,“Typically, due to the size, complexity, and cost associated with a project of this nature it is not unusual for it to take ten or more years to bring them to construction. We are still at the beginning of a long process.”

  • Steven Fields

    Wow I thought this was costing about 60 million. 200 million is mind blowing. I bet you won’t hear from Coast about this.

    • CincyCapell

      Bet you won’t see the Enquirer nit-picking the cost of this project as they’ve done with the Streetcar.

    • Curt Parrott

      I’m sure the Enquirer won’t nit pick it. It’ll serve ten times as many commuters as the street car for roughly a similar cost. It also won’t be a political hot potato.

    • Steven Fields

      What development will this bridge spur??

    • Curt Parrott

      It’s certainly not directed towards any specific development. But it a connection to the west side that needs to be maintained so other connections are not overwhelmed. It does have a regional economic effect.

    • It’s absolutely a vital link. The thing is that the structure is in poor shape now and is not only a potential hazard to drivers, pedestrians and cyclists using it, but is a present hazard to the freight/passenger rail operations in the Queensgate Railyard below. A rebuilt structure will correct all of those issues, and maintain the vital connection to the city’s western neighborhoods.

  • Major repairs or replacement of this viaduct are desperately needed. It’s a totally different project from the streetcar, but everyone is right that its costs or potential benefits won’t be examined the same way. The streetcar, plain and simple, has been treated unequally by the media and politicians. It is a great project that just happens to be another example around the U.S. of where infrastructure investments are now political fodder.

    It’s really too bad seeing the poor state of our nation’s existing infrastructure, and the complete absence of a 21st century transport network.

    • Curt Parrott

      I have no problem with the street car, it’s stop and go transit where it’s needed. The cities finances are the concern. Projects like this should include a 21st century transportation network. But it needs to be a sustainable economic structure. I prefer a Bus Rapid Transit network that could speed commuters across the region and keep their stop and go transit ride short. Selling access to private providers serving niche markets while metro focuses on route and express hub services could produce enough revenue to reduce or eliminate subsidies. Having $40 million more a year for other services and projects could really make Cincinnati something special.

    • To discuss transit and its operating costs in Cincinnati without mentioning the fact that only the City of Cincinnati financially supports the “regional” transit authority is a mistake. At some point people need to make some tough choices and tell the communities that benefit from transit service that they no longer get a seat on the SORTA Board or get service unless they put some skin in the game.

      Right now a ton of communities get to make decisions that really only impact the finances of the City of Cincinnati and Metro. This is not right and should not continue. If the regional system were supported financially by the region then there would be no issue with operating costs, and Cincinnati would have to foot less of the bill.

    • Curt Parrott

      Your right that Cincinnati is stuck subsidizing Metro alone. Other communities should help. But it would break down into an argument over who pays for it like the Brent Spence bridge.
      Focusing on improving mass transit by creating a market and reducing subsidies could keep it from becoming the political fodder that so many other projects do. Using money that rush hour commuters already spend on gas to control the rising cost of transportation should keep tempers from flaring too much.