Jump to content
Guest seicer

Cincinnati: Western Hills Viaduct

Recommended Posts

Yeah I think the area would be fine if the viaduct went away since the neighborhoods directly served by it have been massively depleted.  Alternatively, the viaduct could be rebuilt as a much less expensive 2-lane bridge that ignores Spring Grove Ave. and I-75.  It could simply connect South Fairmount and Central Parkway at McMillan St.  If anything that would bring a tiny amount of traffic back to Central Parkway, which is a ghost town but apparently was the site of massive traffic jams when the viaduct opened back in the 30s.

 

I think this may be the best solution. A single deck 2 (for Central only access) or 4 (for 75 access) lane viaduct would probably suffice. The interchange with Spring Grove sees very little traffic and is a relic at this point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The lower deck serves the I-75 ramps but I agree that the amount of traffic traveling the full length of the lower deck must be minimal.  It would be interesting to see traffic count data going back to the 1930s. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For historical perspective, I think the original concept was separation of traffic. Passenger automobiles could use the top deck, which intersected with Central Parkway. Central Parkway, Victory Parkway, and Columbia Parkway were pre-interstate motorways that were meant to exclude heavy trucks and streetcars. The lower deck of the Western Hills Viaduct was to accommodate heavy trucks and streetcars. Of course, this changed when I-75 was constructed with ramps connecting to both the upper and lower decks.

 

If I remember correctly, there was also a period when the lower deck had a reversible lane, with illuminated red x's and green arrows showing which lanes to drive in.

 

The present merging movement where the ramp comes into the lower deck going westbound is scary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The reversible lane disappeared in 1999, about the same time the Hopple St. reversible lane disappeared.  There was also a reversible lane on Queen City Ave until the current bypass was built around 2002.  The Columbia Parkway reversible lane went away around 1992.  The only one remaining is on the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is the new viaduct going to have northbound traffic on one deck and southbound on the other? The current setup, with both directions on both decks, is odd and unnecessarily dangerous.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is the new viaduct going to have northbound traffic on one deck and southbound on the other? The current setup, with both directions on both decks, is odd and unnecessarily dangerous.

 

All of the renderings shown appear to have two decks on the new viaduct. I would hope enough analysis goes into this replacement to determine that two decks are unnecessary. It seems like a waste of money.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The advantage of having two decks, aside from easier access to Spring Grove and Beekman/State Avenue, is that it requires a narrower right-of-way.  Additional property acquisition and more difficulty in threading the railroad tracks underneath with a single-level but wider viaduct might cancel out any savings. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The advantage of having two decks, aside from easier access to Spring Grove and Beekman/State Avenue, is that it requires a narrower right-of-way.  Additional property acquisition and more difficulty in threading the railroad tracks underneath with a single-level but wider viaduct might cancel out any savings.

 

Why would a single deck WHV be wider? Couldn't we get away with a 4 lane ROW like today? Assuming the daily traffic numbers are less than 70k, a 4 lane viaduct would be perfectly sufficient.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No they'll want to do emergency shoulders. 

 

We seem to be the only country where emergency shoulders are deemed necessary on every single piece of grade-separated roadway.  The big bridge-tunnel highway that recently opened near Busan, South Korea has no emergency shoulders for 5+ miles. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Could potential new car fee be a windfall for Western Hills Viaduct?

 

unknown*660xx1874-1054-209-0.jpg

 

County officials are talking about a potential $5 countywide car fee as a source that could provide the needed local match to replace the Western Hills Viaduct.

 

More below:

http://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/news/2017/03/28/could-potential-new-car-fee-be-a-windfall-for.html


"You don't just walk into a bar and mix it up by calling a girl fat" - buildingcincinnati speaking about new forumers

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So if the new bridge is estimated to cost $300 million and the car registration fee is expected to bring in $3.5 million per year ... that doesn't come close to covering the cost. We still need substantial federal or state dollars to make that math work. I'm hearing that Cranley is scheming up another way that the city could help fund infrastructure projects, so that might be a part of the equation if that plan comes to fruition.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It would just need to be enough to cover the cost of debt service from issuing bonds to pay for the construction.


“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

True, but if the county finances a $300 million bridge with 30 year bonds, we would have to make a payment of around $15 million per year. If the state covers half the cost and we finance $150 million for 30 years, we pay around $7.5 million per year. Even if the car registration fee gets implemented, we need to find a lot more money.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^ We have a $500 million capital budget this year in Cincinnati. Some of that is going to have to find its way to the Viaduct. Any proposed fee would offset the amount that needs to come from the taxes we all pay already.

 

I think this fee might be a big uphill battle. The argument is going to be that we built the streetcar without new taxes or fees, why do we need fees now to build this road? I could see something like this waking COAST up from their slumber.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Right, but a lot of the funding for the streetcar also came from federal funds, or downtown/OTR TIF funds. There can't be a TIF district for the Viaduct because it's not going to increase property values around the viaduct. If we were to follow COAST's logic, West Siders should create a Special Improvement District and tax themselves to fund the new bridge since they're the ones who will directly benefit from it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So if the new bridge is estimated to cost $300 million and the car registration fee is expected to bring in $3.5 million per year ... that doesn't come close to covering the cost. We still need substantial federal or state dollars to make that math work. I'm hearing that Cranley is scheming up another way that the city could help fund infrastructure projects, so that might be a part of the equation if that plan comes to fruition.

 

Indiana just put together a plan to generate $1.2 billion per year for roads by raising gas tax to 28¢/gallon (a 10¢/gallon increase), adding a $15/vehicle "infrastructure fee", adding a $150 annual fee for electric vehicles and a $50 annual fee for hybrids.

 

Ohio's proposal to allow counties to add a $5/vehicle annual fee is a joke.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I get the impression no one is actually trying to find funding for this. The county/city/state have all been quiet about it except to say "it needs to be replaced"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw at least two City Council candidate state that its repair/replacement is among their top priorities, Frondorf and Bauman. Others have likely done the same, I just haven't been around this summer to hear the chatter. Is this something the city can take on alone? WHV was built with railroad support before... not that railroads are rolling in money, but could they help? They stand to benefit from the bridge not shedding debris on their tracks.

 

[Edited to not be confused for a hillbilly]

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that's one of the hold-ups. When the WHV was originally built as part of the Union Terminal project, the railroads kicked in some of the funding. Portune is insisting that the railroads pay for a portion of the cost of the replacement. That would make sense, because the current bridge is a huge hassle for them. The new bridge will have far fewer piers going down into the rail yard, giving the railroads much more space to work with. Portune also mentioned today that the Union Terminal sales tax could pay for the viaduct -- which will surely be an upset for the owners of US Bank Arena who wanted to repurpose that tax for a new arena.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^I don't think that Union Terminal tax should be used for anything but Union Terminal.

 

I agree, I happly voted for the Terminal Tax but had i known it could be turned into a slush fund for other projects (without a vote) my support might have changed. That was the basis for the Mayors Parks issue failurewhere it was just a general 'well we might do this or we might do that' type of plan and it uncertainty of the reasons and uses for the money to be generated killed it. The Enquirer report on how the current board used the existing monies helped make people think twice too i suspect. Creepy Trees 1 - Mayor 0 :)

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, the Western Hills Viaduct was built as a part of the Union Terminal project by the Union Terminal Company (consortium of railroads). So you could actually make a strong argument that the WHV is a valid use of the UT funds.

 

However, when the county talks about "using" the UT tax for other project, I don't think they literally mean it that way. What they mean is, when the UT tax expires, another issue would be put on the ballot that would introduce a new 0.25% tax for x number of years to fund WHV or a new arena. We currently have the maximum sales tax rate allowable by law, so we would have to wait for the UT tax to end before putting another tax on the ballot. So, in effect, the total sales tax wouldn't change, we'd just be "repurposing" the UT tax for another project.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The argument for county responsibility through the UT tax makes sense... and even further when you consider that many (audaciously: most) people taking the WHV are coming from Green Township suburban neighborhoods.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, the Western Hills Viaduct was built as a part of the Union Terminal project by the Union Terminal Company (consortium of railroads). So you could actually make a strong argument that the WHV is a valid use of the UT funds.

 

However, when the county talks about "using" the UT tax for other project, I don't think they literally mean it that way. What they mean is, when the UT tax expires, another issue would be put on the ballot that would introduce a new 0.25% tax for x number of years to fund WHV or a new arena. We currently have the maximum sales tax rate allowable by law, so we would have to wait for the UT tax to end before putting another tax on the ballot. So, in effect, the total sales tax wouldn't change, we'd just be "repurposing" the UT tax for another project.

 

Yep, when put like that i agree with you that it would be a good way to get it done. Whether people outside of the west side would vote for infrastructure they don't use would be the problem. Perhaps a bundled improved transit plan with this as a main part along with other regional infrastructure needs in other parts of town that are up to the city to fund. Is there anything else as big that wouldn't be a state or federal highway that is funded by that tax money? Buses? Rails? the Sayler Park to Kennedy Heights Hyperloop?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You make a good point about others voting for projects that don't directly benefit them.  We have to learn to drop the east west schtick, and remind people that the real transportation needs of our city affects all of us.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the best bet would be to bundle together a few projects, benefiting different parts of the county, and have a single "infrastructure" tax that covers them all. WHV will mostly help the west side, so add in a project that helps the east side and a project that helps the central part of the county. You could use the tax to fund the capital costs for 1 or 2 new BRT routes (the buses, the stations, the TVMs, etc.) and/or a few new transit centers around the county. I'm not sure if there are any major bridges on the west side of the county that need replacing soon, but obviously that would be another good way to balance out the WHV as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You make a good point about others voting for projects that don't directly benefit them.  We have to learn to drop the east west schtick, and remind people that the real transportation needs of our city affects all of us.

 

Right, but as a voter who lives in OTR, I have been told for the past 10 years that the rest of the city shouldn't have to pay for "OTR's" new $145 million streetcar. So why should I pay for the "west side's" $310 million bridge?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You make a good point about others voting for projects that don't directly benefit them.  We have to learn to drop the east west schtick, and remind people that the real transportation needs of our city affects all of us.

 

Right, but as a voter who lives in OTR, I have been told for the past 10 years that the rest of the city shouldn't have to pay for "OTR's" new $145 million streetcar. So why should I pay for the "west side's" $310 million bridge?

 

Because it would make you look just as bad as them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would challenge the notion that the Western Hills Viaduct is legitimately part of Union Terminal anymore.  It may have been when it was built, but so was the Waldvogel Viaduct, and that got State money for reconstruction because it just so happens to be part of US-50.  It also has no ties to the railroads anymore. Anyway, the Western Hills Viaduct was built to replace the older Harrison Avenue Viaduct, which itself appears to have been funded partly by the railroads and the city (with a push from west side land speculators).  So I can certainly buy that the railroads have some skin in the game, but the facilities of Union Terminal that used to be north of the viaduct (the roundhouse, turning track, and steam plant) are now gone and part of CSX's Queensgate Yard.  The Union Terminal concourse and platforms were demolished for Norfolk Southern's Gest Street Yard.  So the terminal building itself is really all that's left, and any claims on its funding for stuff outside the building and park(ing lot) is pretty much a sham if you ask me.   

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is something I brought up during the streetcar "pause," to wit--shouldn't we have a cost/benefit analysis of the WHV cost? Isn't that the new standard for such major infrastructure projects in the wake of the streetcar?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You make a good point about others voting for projects that don't directly benefit them.  We have to learn to drop the east west schtick, and remind people that the real transportation needs of our city affects all of us.

 

Right, but as a voter who lives in OTR, I have been told for the past 10 years that the rest of the city shouldn't have to pay for "OTR's" new $145 million streetcar. So why should I pay for the "west side's" $310 million bridge?

 

Oh, I get it. But they were wrong. They were wrong then, and still are.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is something I brought up during the streetcar "pause," to wit--shouldn't we have a cost/benefit analysis of the WHV cost? Isn't that the new standard for such major infrastructure projects in the wake of the streetcar?

 

What is the compelling argument for maintaining the partial connection to I-75?  Eliminating that interchange would simply shift interstate traffic to the Sixth St. Viaduct and Hopple.  A simple 2-lane bridge connecting Fairmount and McMillan St. at Central Parkway with a jug handle ramp down to Spring Grove Ave. would cost a fraction of what they are proposing, just for an extravagat redundancy in the city's expressway network. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^also it's hard to imagine now with that area being so run-down, but with the continued build-out of the urban core that land the highway ramps are on may become valuable and there's quite a bit of it there right on Central Parkway.

 

It seems like when these opportunities come along, an engineering firm might do some kind of spreadsheet review of different options but no one really sits down and thinks about the whole picture in a creative way.


www.cincinnatiideas.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^Yeah, Central/Colerain could be re-extended back onto its original alignment and a high-density residential/office project in that space would have great highway visibility for a sign and would provide ridership for the Brighton subway station. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...