Here’s How to Improve Access Between Ohio and Kentucky’s East/West Neighborhoods

When discussing regional transportation issues, the topic seems to always be about congestion. In reality, outside of a few limited periods, the Cincinnati region has relatively good traffic flow with little actual congestion. So instead of trying to solve a problem that does not exist, we should be instead focusing our resources on maintaining our current system and improving mobility within the overall region.

As is the case in any city, the natural environment often serves as a chokepoint and barrier to regional mobility. This is true for Cincinnati with its hills and rivers.

With the region’s population largely centered along the Ohio River, it is natural that this is where the most choke points exist. Outside of the center city, however, there are very few river crossings. In fact, there are only two Ohio River crossings outside of the center city, and both of those are for I-275.

One such area that makes sense for a new local road bridge is around Cincinnati’s Columbia Tusculum neighborhood and Dayton, KY near where the $400 million Manhattan Harbour project is planned.

An increasing amount of development continues to occur on the northern bank of the river in Columbia Tusculum and East End. Further up the hill sits prosperous neighborhoods like Mt. Lookout, Hyde Park, and Oakley; and just around the bend lies Lunken Airfield.

Conversely, on the south side of the river in Kentucky, large-scale development projects have long been envisioned, but are often derailed due to poor access via existing roadway networks. This remains true for Manhattan Harbour where concerns exist about the traffic burden that would be placed on the narrow KY 8 running through historic Bellevue’s quaint business district.

A local road bridge that is one lane in each direction with space for pedestrian and bicycle paths would be an ideal fit for this area of the region. It would improve mobility and access to two difficult-to-access areas. It would also offer a highway alternative for those looking to cross between the two states.

A second location where a local bridge of this nature would make sense is near where the Anderson Ferry currently operates today on the city’s west side.

While little development has occurred in this area for some time, this may soon change. The Ohio River Trail West will soon make its way toward this area, and several developers have been eyeing the western riverfront for major projects.

The Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport sits on the southern side of the river where this bridge would land. This area continues to be bolstered by warehouses, distribution facilities and other airport-related services, and could be further bolstered with better access. What’s more, Cincinnati’s western neighborhoods that have long had to deal with excessive airplane noise, yet long treks to the airport, could at least resolve one of those injustices with a new local access bridge.

The Taylor-Southgate Bridge is the most recent span that has been constructed over the Ohio River. It was completed in 1995 and cost $56 million at that time – approximately $85 million when adjusted for inflation. Both of these new bridges would need to span an approximate 1,700-foot-wide width, which is about 300 feet more than the Taylor-Southgate Bridge river width.

One of the main differences, however, is that the Taylor-Southgate Bridge includes two lanes of traffic in each direction, plus sidewalks. The need for only one lane of traffic on these bridges would allow them to have a deck width of around just 30 to 35 feet.

Another good nearby comparison is the U.S. Grant Bridge in Portsmouth, OH. That cable-stayed bridge was completed by the Ohio Department of Transportation in 2006 for approximately $30 million – or about $35 million in today’s dollars.

In addition to access and mobility improvements for motorists, a new bridge in both of these locations would also be a boon for cyclists. Those riding along the Little Miami Scenic Trail and the Ohio River Trail would now also be able to continue on to Northern Kentucky’s Riverfront Commons Trail, which will eventually stretch 11.5 miles from Ludlow to Ft. Thomas.

The Cincinnati region does not need multi-billion dollar solutions for a traffic congestion issues that largely do not exist. Reasonable and affordable projects that aim to increase mobility and access, along with maintaining our existing assets, should be the priority.

New local bridges connecting the region’s east and west side neighborhoods would open up land for new development, improve access between both states, enhance mobility for pedestrians and cyclists, and would do so at a price tag we can afford.

  • Jasomm

    Im a big fan of getting a bridge at Anderson Ferry. Mostly to support a rail line between the Airport and downtown, but motor traffic and trail connections would add a lot of incentives to get it done.
    Maybe get a Newtown to CVG line going with a stop in the Transit Center (transfers to streetcar)

    • EDG

      Keep in mind that this area is hamstrung by a ridge line near both banks of the river.

  • Matt Jacob

    I think your big picture view is correct, but the devil is always in the details. Most people don’t realize how relatively cheap a bridge can be built (compared to the $2B+ price tag of the BSB) and how the network effect can help alleviate congestion on its own (give people more options to cross the river and they’ll spread out/find the fastest way).

    A few counterpoints:
    – Both new bridges, especially the east side bridge, is going to run into NIMBYism because of blocking people’s views and just the general idea that it will kill CT like is associated with highways.
    – Most people won’t see the value of a smaller 2-lane bridge, even with bike paths (and hopefully space for future rail), and will expect this to be another major link.
    – What roads are we trying to connect with these bridges and can they handle the increased traffic as drivers learn to use them? As we learned from the BSB, all the cost aren’t on the bridges.

    Personally I think on the east side bridge that you’ve got to connect US50 and KY8 directly, probably closer to the bend around Alms Park to avoid most of CT. You might run into problems with Lunken being so close as well for this bridge.

    On the west side bridge, I think a lot more of the cost is going to go into improving Anderson Ferry’s approach to the river on the OH side and either Amsterdam Rd or Point Pleasant Rd on the KY side. I think you’re probably clear of CVG’s flight paths and low enough in the river valley to make this bridge more feasible. With building this bridge, setting aside space for light rail is a must.

    • Brian Boland

      I think for the eastern bridge an alignment from CT to just east of Dayton is preferred. Just past the foldaway and Marine If you move it farther east there is NOTHING out there along Rt. 8 and most of the land have very little development possibility due to the shoreline being so close, so you are just adding driving distance. Make it an extension of Delta Ave and bring it across.

      Dayton would get a huge lift if people from CT, Mt. Look out and other areas could simply get there at all. It’s simply so far off and not connected via any means right now that it’s just forgotten.

      I also think that a nice bridge design would benefit people here. A cable stay or arched bridge of some sort would add to the area, not detract from it.

  • Matt Jacob

    Fairbanks in Sedamsville to Sleepy Hollow Rd in Ludlow might make sense as well. But the Yacht Club would need to be avoided at all costs.

  • EDG

    Are there any numbers on Anderson Ferry trips? Seems unnecessary to connect the underutilized, semi-trailer thoroughfare that is River Rd with small KY 8.

    • Development will follow the infrastructure. There’s little development there now because it’s so inaccessible.

    • EDG

      River Rd moves fine and I’m not sure what linking to this part of KY gets you other than a local route to CVG, but it’s a weird area I think suffers from multiple issues: toxic industry, a ribbon of city and school jurisdiction, eastside-westside perception, lack of large areas prime for development, possible flood plain issues

    • Lisa

      I took the Ferry today (around 3pm on Thursday) and when I got off on the KY side there were at least 30 cars waiting – some pulled off to the side of the road. They even had two boats going.

  • Jonathan Hay

    I think this is a fantastic idea. I live in CT and I don’t think this is a great idea. There is nothing wrong with a view of a river and a bridge vs. just a river. I would love to have more mobility options and this would really be a win win for people who need to cross the river.

  • TimSchirmang

    Are there any bridges of similar span that are purpose built as ped / bike only?

  • James_Partin

    3 new bridges would be idea one on the east, west and current location repair existing and additional one next to it.

  • Everyone is getting funneled down to the BSB, building these two bridge out where people need them might be enough to stop the congestion during rush hours.

  • The first need to address is the too few crossings of the Licking River. If you study motorists on the BSB and Big Mac, a large percentage are NKY drivers who are crossing the Ohio solely to cross the Licking. Simply put, the fastest route from Ft Wright to Ft Thomas goes through downtown Cincinnati. South of 275, east-west travel is even slower. Why to you think homebuilders Toebben and Fischer were so keen on a new route for I-71? To open up southern portions of Boone, Kenton and Campbell Counties to faster travel and more homes.

  • Aaron Steckman

    I can hear COAST complaining already. But a great idea.