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Cincinnati: Western Hills Viaduct

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The second of two meetings was held tonight in Fairmont regarding the Western Hills Viaduct reconstruction/replacement project. The project is still in the first phase, and this meeting was held to gather goals and to hear concerns about the existing bridge and about the proposed structure. Here is what I wrote on my article, which I'll repost here:

 

Preliminary studies for a replacement or reconstruction of the Western Hills Viaduct began in the fall of 2011. The City of Cincinnati, in coordination with Hamilton County, have contracted with URS to conduct early engineering and environmental work. The project is also in development with the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) Interstate 75 reconstruction project and the associated reconstruction with Interstate 75′s mainline in conjunction with the Brent Spence Bridge project, CSX Transportation, and with the Metropolitian Sewer District due to major changes that could occur in the Fairmont neighborhood as a result of the Lick Run Sewer Project.

 

The need for major work is due to the poor condition of the bridge, which is rated 4 out of 9 due to deterioration of core structural elements, the inclusion of fracture critical members, outdated roadway geometry, and poor or non-existant pedestrian and bicycle accessibility. The project’s goal at a minimum is to maintain connections to Interstate 75, Central Parkway and Spring Grove Avenue, and to improve connectivity at the western terminus with the various roadways, to replace both the upper and/or lower viaduct decks, remove or retrofit all existing fracture critical elements, and to provide in-depth repair of any other structural elements, and to improve pedestrian and bicycle access.

 

Three alternatives are being explored, which include reconstruction of the existing viaduct and outright replacement of the viaduct with a single or two level crossing.

 

The first meetings to gather information on existing concerns and goals were held on January 17 and 19, 2012.

 

The meeting was interesting, and 30 people showed up which is typical. Of course, one complainer (who attends a lot of meetings and spends his time complaining the entire time) said that there are 55,000 people who use this bridge daily and they should have all been invited... whatever. It was posted to the Enquirer, to the television and radio outlets, to social media, to the appropriate web-sites, and flyers were handed out to every business and resident in the affected project area. This individual thought that flyers should have been handed out to most of the city because any one of us could potentially use the bridge at some point during the year, and that the city should have bought billboard spaces to notify everyone of the project. Whatever.

 

Besides that, it was an informative meeting. Based on my recollection of the polling that was conducted (which will be posted hopefully Monday), most of the issues concern with pedestrian/bike connectivity, geometrics, and connections. Of course, there is zero bike connectivity at the lower level - they are prohibited, along with pedestrians. And stairs to the upper level have been closed off. And bikes are not exactly welcome on the upper level. There are also poor sight distances, sharp curves and issues with merging throughout. And all of the connections can be downright confusing.

 

The whole Lick Run project, which is being headed by MSD, could ultimately determine how the bridge is tied into the west side. And ODOT will ultimately make a decision on how I-75 is tied into the bridge, who currently has an interchange proposal for just south of the bridge.

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I don't know if this is still being considered, but about ten years ago there was a proposal for a "stack" type interchange with I-75, with towering left-turn ramps. I thought, "don't these traffic engineers have any consideration whatsoever for what the highway looks like from the neighborhoods below?"

 

 

 

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No, it's still being tied into the MSD Lick Run Project and is still being studied. It will be a while before conceptual renderings, site plans or even alternatives are discussed.

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Cincinnati is hosting three public information sessions for the Western Hills Viaduct Project to seek feedback on the proposed upgrade of the east-west corridor across the Mill Creek and railroad yards.

 

The sessions are 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17, at Orion Academy, 1798 Queen City Ave.; and 4-5:30 p.m. and 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, at Cincinnati City Hall, 801 Plum St.

 

The Western Hills Viaduct is being studied for a major upgrade. This may affect you and your neighbors, both during construction and after completion.

 

Project staff will review the status of planning performed to date and next steps to evaluate reconstruction or replacement of the viaduct.

 

Residents’ input is important to the planning, design and construction of the transportation connector.

 

The presentation will have structured and open questions. During the interactive session, electronic keypads will be supplied for you to provide input on project issues and to answer questions.

 

Visit the project website for more details, www.cincinnati-oh.gov/westernhillsviaduct.

 

Shouldn't this thread be under Roads and Biking???

 

 

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Saw they're considering TOLLS on inter-city roadway. Now that's insane.

 

Is it really that insane? It's a $200 million dollar bridge, is it unreasonable to ask drivers to pay $1 or $2 to use it?

 

Actually, instead of tolls, why not ask county residents to approve an Infrastructure & Transit Tax. It could fund the reconstruction of the Western Hills Viaducts and other bridges in the county that are seen to be structurally insufficient or "functionally obsolete". Include various bridges from across the county so it appeals to the majority of voters. Part of the funding could be used to fund a Metro*Plus express routes to the east and west sides.

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I don't see tolls being politically acceptable to westsiders especially since the City is floating bonds for the streetcar.    On the other hand it is going to be a big lift to get $200M to build anything in this day and age especially since it is not a state highway etc.  Surprised this has not had more attention since it is the regions most expensive road project outside of I-75.

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I'm not sure if I'm posting this in the right place, so a mod can move it if it's in the wrong forum or there is already a thread for it. 

 

One of the worst bridges in the country is in Cincinnati.

 

The American Road and Transportation Builders’ Association listed the Western Hills Viaduct as one of the 10 most-traveled, structurally deficient bridges in the nation.

 

http://www.wlwt.com/news/western-hills-viaduct-ranked-among-worst-in-nation/25662958

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There is a thread for the western Hills Viaduct under general transportation but It seems as if it should be under roads and biking to me.  The City has been studying the replacement of the bridge for a couple of years now.

Seems like the bridge replacment has been under the radar compared to other less costly projects in the area.

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There is a thread for the western Hills Viaduct under general transportation but It seems as if it should be under roads and biking to me.  The City has been studying the replacement of the bridge for a couple of years now.

Seems like the bridge replacment has been under the radar compared to other less costly projects in the area.

 

I guess I didn't look hard enough. 

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The Western Hills Viaduct doesn't get the attention it deserves because it leads to the West Side. No one really cares about the West Side except west siders.

 

Pretty much, which is unfortunate. 

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Cincinnati looking at whether Western Hills Viaduct fix could include transit

Chris Wetterich - Staff reporter - Cincinnati Business Courier

 

A fix to the structurally deficient Western Hills Viaduct, ranked as one of the state’s worst bridges by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, could include a transit option, the city’s top transportation official said Monday.

 

Putting transit on the bridge has received increased attention since Pete Witte, a west side activist and onetime streetcar opponent, called for it in a letter to the Cincinnati Enquirer and subsequent news reports.

 

Michael Moore, Cincinnati’s director of transportation and engineering, said he will make a presentation on the viaduct and possible transit options on May 28 at 1 p.m. before council’s transportation committee. Moore also plans to apply for a grant for the project from the state, although he added he’s not sure how successful it will be.

 

Cont

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The Western Hills Viaduct doesn't get the attention it deserves because it leads to the West Side. No one really cares about the West Side except west siders.

 

It doesn't get the attention it deserves because it is a city-owned bridge that carries a local road. Yes, it carries a lot of traffic, but it is not part of any US route or Ohio state route, so it's not going to get state or federal funding. And it's not going to get any funding from the county either.

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^ If that is the case. Demolish it.  Reroute to State ave and Beekman st. Improve those and maybe put  more retail along those streets. The New 6th st viaduct and new Hopple st can handle the load im sure.

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The problem is it can't handle that traffic flow at peak times. Bear in mind too that with Queen City becoming two way street ODOT is planning for Western Hills to be a four lane limited access parkway. One of the reasons for the Harrison Ave improvements was to handle diverted traffic during the MSD and ODOT changes. You have new construction happening out in the townships too and traffic is growing. If you have driven the viaduct at times is bumper to bumper (especially if the ramps to the freeway get backed up)

 

The sad thing is that between the MSD project (which wipes out everything on the Northside of western hills) the ODOT project wipes out all the housing south.. remember MSD and the city pitching how the Lick Run daylight (ditch) would rebuild the community?  No community left down in the valley, hundreds of jobs lost too.

 

I's like to see them turn the old bridge into a park, but where the money will come from for a new bridge is a problem.....but hey we have a streetcar!

 

 

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The streetcar goes to a lot more places for a lot less money. More bang for the buck.

 

However, I agree replacing the viaduct is a major priority. Suburban westsiders who use the viaduct should be urging the county to pitch in. It's not just city residents creating that traffic volume. But if traffic volume is as big as you say it is, it also sounds like a transit connection is vital. You can move so many more people with so much less space using transit. Back to bang for the buck, again. An auto-only transportation system can't be sustained economically.

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It seems to me that any the bigger issues for streetcar route on the viaduct is not the bridge itself but how the streetcar could connect at Central Parkway, McMillan and at Westwood on the other end.    The MSD/City construction in south fairmont,  as I understand it, does not inlcude provisions for dedicated transit.  Also the plans call for the bridge to be a double deck strcuture and the ramps at Westwood could complicate a rail connection.  As noted most of the existing housing in the area will be demolished so ridership south fairmont itself would seem to be modest.

 

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^ MSD project hasn't started, which is why people should demand for it to be reworked to include transit and TOD. Remember, we live in Cranistan, where it's never too late to change anything.

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Connections at the ends shouldn't be a problem.  The viaduct originally had rail transit.  We've done it before, so surely we can do it again.  This time around there aren't really even many structures in the way.  We've torn them all down.

 

As for county financial participation, I couldn't agree more.  Half the users are Green Township residents.

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I'm still pulling for converting the existing historic structure into a park, and building a new viaduct adjacent to it:

 

http://zfein.blogspot.com/2010/02/viaduct.html

 

I posted this project I did for school a few years ago. As it's becoming apparent now, the city plans to eventually replace the viaduct with a new bridge to the south of the existing one. I still wonder what the feasibility of utilizing the old viaduct for something is, rather than tearing it down. Cincinnati is famous for our parks, and people don't seem to get too mad about the parks budget.

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I posted this project I did for school a few years ago. As it's becoming apparent now, the city plans to eventually replace the viaduct with a new bridge to the south of the existing one. I still wonder what the feasibility of utilizing the old viaduct for something is, rather than tearing it down. Cincinnati is famous for our parks, and people don't seem to get too mad about the parks budget.

 

Wouldn't the location of the elevated park be the biggest issue?  I understand the New York City High Line is quite popular, but isn't that because it is closer to residences and businesses than the Western Hills Viaduct?  The viaduct is quite a large span that is mostly above an active industrial rail area with little in terms of businesses/residences on each end.  It would have to serve as a destination park and I'm not convinced that it would be all too popular given the other great parks in the region.

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^Seems like you could do something interesting with it that is park-like, though.  I have zero idea what the feasibility of this is, but you could:

 

1. Encourage ivy to grow up the sides (might involve some added elements to avoid long term damage).

2. Add plants along each edge that grow and dangle over the sides.

3. Start an arboretum on the top level.

4. Designate space near the ends for community gardens where people can grow vegetables.  If this is successful, look into greenhouses as well.

5. Carve out a running path and bicycle lanes with programmed events like 5Ks (presumably with starting/ending points in a nearby neighborhood).

6. Use the lower level for parking, local traffic, or rail (assuming the activities above wouldn't preclude this).

7. Create formal floral gardens with designs that are evident when viewed from the surrounding hills.

8. Install a CINCINNATI sign on the north side to announce your arrival to those driving south on I-75.

 

It's an interesting, highly visible structure that could have a cool "hanging gardens" look if handled correctly.  And it would bring some needed color into that area without disrupting the industrial activities below.  Even if it isn't the kind of place that gets a ton of daily visits, it could be a visual asset to Cincinnati's landscape instead of being demolished.

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Rather pie-in-the-sky ideas I think.  The structural problems with the viaduct aren't so much "unable to handle today's traffic" but "a rusting steel superstructure and broken concrete falling onto people below."  Any reuse of the viaduct would require a pretty significant and costly rehabilitation, then the question becomes, "for all this money and effort we could've made it usable as a road again and saved the cost of building a new one too."

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^Hence why I started with "I have zero idea what the feasibility of this is, but you could..."

 

Just trying to think outside the box.  We tear way too much down in this city because no one has any vision. 

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There's also the problem of the active rail yard below. Last year DOTE Director Michael Moore explained in an UrbanCincy podcast that the many incidents where trains derail and hit the viaduct supports were one the reasons for pursuing a rebuild. The new viaduct will not require as many supports thus saving the city on maintenance costs over time.

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^Hence why I started with "I have zero idea what the feasibility of this is, but you could..."

 

Just trying to think outside the box.  We tear way too much down in this city because no one has any vision. 

 

That’s kind of what I was getting at, even if it is a pie in the sky idea, we should at least consider doing something other than continuing the trend of demolition. There will really be no thought whatsoever put into the decision to tear down the viaduct. Of course there would be costs involved with any alternative, but many of the problems would be virtually non-existant without the heavy traffic that currently uses the bridge. The structural fatigue that is one of the driving forces of the replacement is primarily caused by the traffic, so the amount of concrete repair and patching would be minimal if the bridge was reserved for foot traffic and small static loads only.

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I don't see tolls being politically acceptable to westsiders especially since the City is floating bonds for the streetcar.    On the other hand it is going to be a big lift to get $200M to build anything in this day and age especially since it is not a state highway etc.  Surprised this has not had more attention since it is the regions most expensive road project outside of I-75.

 

I'm sure there will be bonds floated to pay for the viaduct.  But it doesn't seem apples to apples to me.  Tolls on the viaduct would equate to fares charged to ride the streetcar, which I understand is in fact going to happen. 

 

Of course, the real issue is people just aren't used to tolls to drive their cars.  Until that changes, people will react negatively to any toll roads--or certainly at least to tolling anything in the future that you can currently ride on untolled (BSB, etc.). 

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