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Massive Interstate 75 projects move forward

Two Interstate 75 (I-75) projects will cost an estimate $900 million in hopes of making the heavily traveled stretch of highway through the heart of Hamilton County safer and offer better traffic flow for motorists.

The $150 million Thru the Valley project will widen and realign a seven mile stretch I-75 from Interstate 275 at the northern end to Seymour Avenue at the southern end.  The project will widen the stretch of interstate from four to five lanes in each direction and hopefully ease congestion.

Thru the Valley is a project that has been in the planning stages for several years now and is on pace for the first construction to begin in 2013 following initial planning and right-of-way acquisition phases.

The other portion of the I-75 work is referred to as the Mill Creek Expressway project which will include the stretch of I-75 from the Paddock Road interchange at the northern end to the Western Hills Viaduct at the southern end, and be broken down into eight different phases.  The project will also include a portion of Interstate 74 as it approaches I-75, but does not include the roughly $1 billion Brent Spence Bridge project that is currently in planning stages.

The Mill Creek Expressway will add a lane in each direction of I-75 for the roughly eight mile stretch and remove all left exit ramps which often produce confusing and dangerous merging patterns for motorists.

As part of these design changes some exit/entrance ramps will be lost completely, while others will be significantly reconfigured.  One such ramp that will be going away is the Elmore ramp that serves Northside, while the Hopple Street exit will see dramatic changes that will affect everything from traffic flow on I-75, to Central Parkway, McMicken Street and beyond.

The Mill Creek Expressway project is still in planning phases, but is currently on-schedule with the first construction work expected to begin in early 2010 with the Monmouth Street Overpass and continue on until the final work is completed on I-75 from the Norwood Lateral to Cross County Highway in 2020.

The decade long construction project along Cincinnati's primary interstate does not sit well with city council member Roxanne Qualls who said, "we're looking at almost a generation of construction" when referring to the three different Interstate 75 related projects.

During this extended period of construction, project officials assure that time will be of the essence but that cost is also a major factor.  Project officials also plan to leave at least two driving lanes open at all times during construction and avoid any intentional traffic detours.

Qualls also pushed for the City's Department of Transportation and Engineering (DOTE) to continue to work with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) on working "more urbanity" into the designs.

"Just because a pedestrian or bicyclist can cross the road, does not mean they feel comfortable doing so," stated Qualls.

Future meetings will be held so that the public can stay informed on the massive roadway project, with a preliminary update on information coming in August.  Qualls hopes to engage the public and stakeholders in a similar way that has been done with the Brent Spence Bridge project that she has also been engaged with.

Writer: Randy Simes
Source: City of Cincinnati Department of Transportation and Engineering; Roxanne Qualls, Cincinnati City Council
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