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Cincinnati: Western Hills Viaduct

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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.

 

I also like the idea of a simpler/smaller bridge replacement, possibly forgoing the connection to I-75... but I'm confused about where you envision this bridge going. Fairmount is quite a bit north or the current bridge and does not seems like a good crossing point. I think the more logical location would be to simply extend Harrison Ave.

 

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Yeah when you look at the hold Harrison Ave. viaduct alignment it's easy to see why Brighton grew into a major neighborhood hub.  Central Parkway and the new viaduct bypassed it (they probably didn't think it would be a bid deal at the time), and then I-75 obviously completely killed it off. 

 

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I'm not sure if rebuilding the Harrison Avenue Viaduct will work for modern commuting patterns. Currently, West Side residents using the Viaduct can continue straight on McMillan to go uptown, or turn right on Central Parkway to go downtown. If you dumped them all onto Harrison Avenue in Brighton, you're just going to create a traffic jam in Brighton at the corner of Harrison and Central Parkway. Anyone going uptown will have to backtrack by turning left on Central Parkway and then right on McMillan. I also think that the I-75 access should be maintained, but maybe just have a stoplight on the viaduct and a standard diamond interchange, rather than all of the cloverleafs that exist now.

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Back in the day, Queen City Avenue used to connect all the way through to Colerain.  The little bit of Buck Street where it intersects Spring Grove is all that's left of it east of Mill Creek.  Harrison Avenue itself also remained open until the Western Hills Viaduct was finished and the old Harrison Avenue Viaduct was demolished.  It's amazing how thoroughly these streets have been <Christopher Lloyd Voice>erased...from existence.</Christopher Lloyd Voice>

 

http://jjakucyk.com/transit/chd/index.html

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^ And this particular chunk of concrete is over the shoulder anyway.  I want to know how many people think the steel beams are broken, not that these are cantilevered spans, because the way they're reacting, it would seem to be most of them.

 

Once again people were getting riled up on Facebook because of the deteriorating concrete.  WLWT must have noticed and did a piece on it, once again letting everyone know that it's safe.  They also mentioned that a new viaduct is still 10 years away and the detailed design phase will start next month.

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I'm not sure if rebuilding the Harrison Avenue Viaduct will work for modern commuting patterns. Currently, West Side residents using the Viaduct can continue straight on McMillan to go uptown, or turn right on Central Parkway to go downtown. If you dumped them all onto Harrison Avenue in Brighton, you're just going to create a traffic jam in Brighton at the corner of Harrison and Central Parkway. Anyone going uptown will have to backtrack by turning left on Central Parkway and then right on McMillan. I also think that the I-75 access should be maintained, but maybe just have a stoplight on the viaduct and a standard diamond interchange, rather than all of the cloverleafs that exist now.

 

If they put in a diamond (or hopefully a SPUI), I'd think they'd have to end up doing what they did at Hopple and have McMillan fly over Central Parkway. But instead of a jughandle they could make use of the double decker nature of the bridge and still have the lower level connect to Central but the upper level connect to McMillan.


“To an Ohio resident - wherever he lives - some other part of his state seems unreal.”

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Cranley unveils plan for Western Hills Viaduct replacement

By Chris Wetterich  –  Staff reporter and columnist, Cincinnati Business Courier

 

The city will borrow its share of the money that is needed for rebuilding the Western Hills Viaduct, Mayor John Cranley announced Thursday.

 

By 2020, Cranley hopes to have room in the city’s capital budget to come up with its approximately $33 million share, Cranley told reporters at a news conference near the declining gateway to Cincinnati’s West Side.

 

https://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/news/2017/12/14/cranley-unveils-plan-for-western-hills-viaduct.html

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Asked whether the city would have to cut something else, Cranley said, “There will be a variety of options for council to consider in January.”

 

My bet is that Cranley will push hard for the countywide bus tax, which would eliminate the 0.3% city income tax that goes to Metro. Then he will propose that the city increase its earnings tax by 0.1% to cover infrastructure projects like the WHV. So in the end, city taxpayers and workers will see their income tax rate drop by 0.2%, but of course they will also be paying the new Metro sales tax.

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^ That actually seems like a pretty sensible plan. Is there a down side to switching Metro's funding source from the City's income tax to a countywide sales tax? I hope whatever is proposed, Metro gets its funding considerably increased. Also, I hope the sales tax will be for transit, generally, rather than just buses, so we can keep the door open for rail at some point.  A system of BRT routes along the major corridors in the city could be remarkably helpful too, though.

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^ That actually seems like a pretty sensible plan. Is there a down side to switching Metro's funding source from the City's income tax to a countywide sales tax? I hope whatever is proposed, Metro gets its funding considerably increased. Also, I hope the sales tax will be for transit, generally, rather than just buses, so we can keep the door open for rail at some point.  A system of BRT routes along the major corridors in the city could be remarkably helpful too, though.

 

Metro is studying many different levels for the proposed sales tax, in 0.1% increments. The 0.5% option basically just maintains the current service levels, and as you go up towards 1%, you allow for a dramatic expansion of service, including several new BRT and late night routes. At first, Metro was considering several options that would keep the existing city income tax and add a countywide sales tax to it. However it now seems like they're leaning towards a sales tax-only proposal.

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The county sales tax grows slower than inflation, which isn't good. So over time fares will have to increase or the sales tax rate will have to increase.

 

Not saying you're wrong, but why is that? As the cost of goods goes up due to inflation, the amount of sales tax should increase linearly, no? I guess since wages lag, spending may go down when costs go up. But that also affects the payroll tax.

 

The main disadvantage that is obvious to me is that sales are more volatile than payroll. Also, the sales tax is regressive.

 

Seems to me they should use a hybrid of both, but that seems unlikely.

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Online sales aren't taxed by the county, generally, so as people shift more towards online shopping, the county makes less in sales tax revenue. Also, inflation can continue during an economic downturn, and shopping has been increasingly moved out to the suburbs (Liberty Center, Mason/Deerfield Township, etc). So sales tax revenue across the state might be up at a higher rate than Hamilton County. I believe year-over-year sales tax revenue in Hamilton County has increased about 0.4% recently. So it's still increasing, but it's lagging behind inflation.

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Asked whether the city would have to cut something else, Cranley said, “There will be a variety of options for council to consider in January.”

 

My bet is that Cranley will push hard for the countywide bus tax, which would eliminate the 0.3% city income tax that goes to Metro. Then he will propose that the city increase its earnings tax by 0.1% to cover infrastructure projects like the WHV. So in the end, city taxpayers and workers will see their income tax rate drop by 0.2%, but of course they will also be paying the new Metro sales tax.

 

Unless the Metro sales tax ballot issue explicitly states that the 0.3% city earnings tax is to be eliminated, would it automatically be removed or would the full 0.3% go directly to the city? I expect the city will try to pull a fast one and keep at least 0.1% if not the full 0.3% - and hide it all in fine print.

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The city would have to stop it. I'm not sure if Council could just pass an ordinance to stop it or if it would need to go to a public vote. In which case, there might be two simultaneous ballot issues, a city issue to end the earning tax/shift it to infrastructure projects, and a countywide issue to pass the new sales tax.

 

Also, there is something funny going on with the Chair of the SORTA board stepping down. Here's a Twitter thread about it. I think his resignation/non-reappointment is related to what we're talking about here.

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Online sales aren't taxed by the county, generally, so as people shift more towards online shopping, the county makes less in sales tax revenue. Also, inflation can continue during an economic downturn, and shopping has been increasingly moved out to the suburbs (Liberty Center, Mason/Deerfield Township, etc). So sales tax revenue across the state might be up at a higher rate than Hamilton County. I believe year-over-year sales tax revenue in Hamilton County has increased about 0.4% recently. So it's still increasing, but it's lagging behind inflation.

Wrong is you live in Ohio you have to pay that use tax.

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Most internet retailers do not charge sales tax, they rely on the buyer to report the sale and pay the tax on the transaction, which no one ever does. Of course Amazon now charges sales tax because they have physical business operations in every state now. But when I buy from smaller retailers that are based in other states, they do not charge Ohio sales tax.

 

Anyway let's try not to get too far off topic, let's keep this thread focused on the WHV. I only brought up the proposed SORTA tax because I think the WHV will be funded using the city's income tax that would be freed up if a new SORTA sales tax passes.

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WHV is currently being discussed in City Council chambers. Discussing how the city will come up with their $33 million share of the project costs. Options are to issue new debt or to end the city's ridiculous property tax rollback and actually obtain new tax revenue that can be used to fund the WHV.

 

Some interesting tweets from @ChrisCinciBiz about how it's going so far:

 

 

Pastor asks whether the Brent Spence Bridge project can be combined with the Western Hills Viaduct.

 

Pastor sounding opposition-y to these tax increases. Less than 30 percent of the people in the city own their own home. People like my mother cannot afford a tax increase.

 

Dennard: We have a 38 percent home ownership rate in Cincinnati. “These are very urgent projects. Raising property taxes is not something I take lightly. We can’t wait for the Western Hills Viaduct. This can’t wait."

 

Pastor urging city to wait a few years before committing to a funding mechanism for the Western Hills Viaduct, but move forward for upgraded fire facilities.

 

Smitherman, like Sittenfeld, will continue to support the property tax rollback.

 

Seelbach floats removing $10 million allocated for FC Cincinnati stadium-related infrastructure to devote to this $50 m in expenses. "That would require us to increase taxes less."

 

Smitherman: "I think it’s unfair to council to cherry-pick projects." There’s lots of decisions where these projects have not been prioritized and others were. “There are lots of decisions that got us here. One of those is the streetcar."

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Council has passed Version 2 of the funding plan, which keeps the property tax rollback in place and funds the WHV by issuing new debt. Murray and Pastor voted no, six members voted yes. (Young absent, presumably due to health issues.)

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Pastor asks whether the Brent Spence Bridge project can be combined with the Western Hills Viaduct.

 

That's actually a very good question. Every plan I've seen for the Brent Spence project includes improvements to I-75 in Ohio from the river to the Viaduct. From the Viaduct to the north, the improvements were a part of Mill Creek Expressway project. I remember having a discussion with someone from ODOT and the city's DOTE years ago at UC - they stated that the southern limit of the I-75 improvements were drawn at the Viaduct specifically because everything south of there would be a part of the Brent Spence project and could be subject to changes based upon the final design.

 

At the very least, you'd think a portion of the WHV - the interchange or section in the 75 ROW - could be funded by that project, which could lower the overall local costs.

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In a world where Ohio, Kentucky, OKI, and the Feds were on the same page, I do agree that the best plan would be to include the cost of the WHV in the BSB project. Since many west siders would use the WHV to connect to I-75 and then cross the BSB, it makes sense to think of it as one infrastructure project. And the BSB tolls would then pay for the WHV.

 

However, with Kentucky still resisting the idea of tolls and the Feds saying absolutely nothing about infrastructure investment, I don't think we can afford to keep kicking the can down the road on the WHV. It may be another decade before the new BSB span gets built.

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However, with Kentucky still resisting the idea of tolls and the Feds saying absolutely nothing about infrastructure investment, I don't think we can afford to keep kicking the can down the road on the WHV. It may be another decade before the new BSB span gets built.

 

So many people think of this as an either/or. Either the WHV gets replaced or we get a new BSB+corridor. There's no reason why these shouldn't be a single initiative.

 

Of course that won't happen so you're right, the WHV is a much higher project and since it's OH only, is ostensibly able to get off the ground quicker.

 

 

Also, remind me, is the $33MM for the WHV being funded only by the City of Cincinnati or Hamilton County in general?

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With design, railroad negotiation, land acquisition, utility and rail track relocation, staging, temporary route construction, and full funding, is it likely the viaduct would be built any sooner than that either? 

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Also, remind me, is the $33MM for the WHV being funded only by the City of Cincinnati or Hamilton County in general?

 

I think $33M is Cincinnati's commitment, and HamCo is bringing an additional ~$15M (going off of memory, this number could be wrong) via the new vehicle registration fee. I still have no idea where the rest of the money is coming from ... did Ohio agree to fund the rest of the project if we provided a local match?

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Does it even need torn down? It could still be used as a pedestrian/bicycle bridge, right?

 

Well, one of the big reasons for tearing it down is that trains tend to derail and hit the support pillars. The new span will have very few if any support posts in the Queensgate rail yard.


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

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As someone who drives into Evendale daily on Queen city to the WHV to 75-n you all are making me quite nervous. Keeping it helps separate the commuters into relatively jam free flows from:

Delhi/westside to downtown on Delhi Pike or Rt 50 (via 6th street viaduct)

Price hill to town (via Glenway & 8th street viaduct)

Delhi & Parts of PH & Westwood & Fairmount to 75 & UC (via Harrison & Queencity to the WH Viaduct)

Westwood to UC & 75 via Hopple St Viaduct

Westwood & Cumminsville/northside & beyond to UC & 75 via I-74

 

It would sound like you could easily delete one of these many access points but there isnt really a good North South road to handle the cross traffic on. State St? Beekman? Both are WAY undersized and there is no real other connection over to Hopple or the Westwood Northern Blvd North of Beekman other than Residential sized streets like McHenry or Baltimore. The same is true if you try to jump from Rt.50 to Glenway somewhere or from Queen city to anywhere north. The way cars flow out of the various valleys is what dictated the numerous access points across the valley and there would need to be other improvements to dump the flow other than simply eliminating one. Believe me Ive tried various routes in my 12yrs of driving this way and during times when one or more are out of commission (like 6th & 8th & Hopple all were at times) the traffic flow onto the other routes is somewhat crippling. I'd hate to have what has happened to Fairmount all be for nothing as well as it is being reconfigured to handle traffic better than ever and to make that all go to state st. south or Beekman north would be awful. Not against the idea of closing it but i am without a plan to handle the traffic shifts it would cause.

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In other words. What about poor Sleepy Leroy!! Haha! Not whining though it sounds like it a bit i just didnt want the city to cause west side chaos as an easy out to the Viaduct issue.

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I don't think removing the WHV without a replacement is realistic, but I would be curious to know how much traffic each of the viaducts carries vs. how much they were designed to carry. It seems to me that even as some west side neighborhoods have lost population, new sprawl in western Hamilton County has accelerated in the same timeframe. So I would guess that the traffic levels on the viaducts have never decreased, people just have longer commutes on average.

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That's a very interesting analysis.  What I didn't really think about was how the percentage of delay decreases as you get farther away, though it does make sense logically as alternative routes become less of a "detour" and more of a "slight variation" the farther away you get.  Even if you did take the same route as far as possible and had to detour at the former location of the viaduct, the longer the trip the less of an impact that detour has on the total. 

 

I do have to wonder some about the "network effect" of removing the viaduct though.  Do the delay calculations account for additional congestion on the alternative routes?  One of the insidious properties of road traffic is that congestion and traffic volume have a non-linear relationship.  At some threshold small increases in volume begin to create massive delays, especially at choke points.  Plus, what is the actual traffic count?  The OKI map shows less than 34,000/day in 2009 (it was much lower in 2006).  Yes those numbers are a bit old, but the highest number I've seen was 55,000.  Where did 75,000 come from? 

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Right now the viaduct dilutes traffic that would head to UC via Camp Washington or downtown via Price Hill.  Forcing more traffic through those deteriorated areas would up the traffic count on Hopple, Glenway, and Warsaw, and so help attract businesses to their many vacant storefronts. 

 

 

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eh. Those areas are thoroughfares. Unless they are real streets with people living on them, increased traffic is just going to lead to more congestion and wider roads. Traffic doesn't always lead to more investment and more foot traffic.

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eh. Those areas are thoroughfares. Unless they are real streets with people living on them, increased traffic is just going to lead to more congestion and wider roads. Traffic doesn't always lead to more investment and more foot traffic.

 

It depends how they are treated -- designed, zoned & targeted for development, but yeah.

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eh. Those areas are thoroughfares. Unless they are real streets with people living on them, increased traffic is just going to lead to more congestion and wider roads. Traffic doesn't always lead to more investment and more foot traffic.

Cheaper than spending 400 Million for a bridge.

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