A bridge too close

Monday, October 19, 1998

BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Seems like the big news about a new bridge over the Ohio isn't playing too well in the places county officials want the span to link.

People in North Bend and across the river on the floodplain and hillsides below Hebron, Ky., like the time a new bridge would save. But nobody's crazy about having all that concrete and steel, plus the bridge traffic, in their back yard.

"Do we need a new bridge? Yes. Do we need it here? No way," said Alan Montague II. He's the caretaker of William Henry Harrison's tomb in North Bend and the village's former mayor. I ran into him while taking most of Friday to drive up and down the narrow, twisting roads on both sides of this hilly bend in the river.

Alan has a preferred site for the new bridge: Down the road, "by the I-275 bridge," and out of sight.

"Put a bridge through North Bend and the traffic would kill the village and destroy the view," he said. "Want to see?"

We walked to the crest of a hill overlooking a river valley of marshland and flat farm fields on the Kentucky side. The Ohio glistened silver in the sunlight. On the north shore, River Road passed North Bend's 209-year-old streets.

The wooded hilltops facing each other across the Ohio shared the same feature -- rooflines of new houses peeking through the trees. The people in these homes want to get across the river, but for now must take the long way around.

Down the hill, Cathleen Fagan, from Hyde Park, was visiting Harrison's tomb with her children.

"There's so much new development out here," she noted. "A new bridge would be a quicker route to the airport. But they should build one only if the residents want it."

Talk of the new bridge makes Jenny Fleek shake her head. The Taylor High School cook knows a span would link the western edge of Hamilton County to Northern Kentucky. But she worries about the added traffic "rumbling through North Bend and next to the school."

She told me she wouldn't use the bridge. "I only go to Cleves and sometimes Addyston. I never go across the river."

Terry Wilson crosses the river twice a day. He lives in Hebron and works on cars in North Bend. A new bridge would save him 40 minutes a day in driving time.

Despite the time savings, Terry opposes the bridge. "The roads are too doggone narrow on both sides of the river," he told me between bites of lunch. "With all the new homes, the roads can't handle the traffic they have now. Besides, the only thing bridges are good for is jumping off when your luck runs out."

Good news, bad news

Don Fisher thinks the bridge will bring good luck in the form of more customers from Ohio to the Rivershore Sports Complex across the river from North Bend. Taking a break from his chores as the complex's maintenance director, Don wondered: "How is a new bridge going to sit with the people building all those expensive new houses up the hill near Hebron?"

Not very well, is what I heard.

Bill Goodman just moved from Oakley into his new Kentucky home. He frowned when I asked him about a bridge being built down the road from his 2.5-acre spread.

"The road is not fit for more traffic. The deer wandering through are being killed," he said. "Build a bridge and put more cars on the road, and it will be a noisy rush-hour racetrack."

"There are enough bridges over the Ohio already," Robert Kaczmarski said as he and Josh Sizemore installed downspouts on a home down the street from Bill Goodman's.

"Add more cars," Josh said, "and they'll be lots of wrecks."

That worries Sharon Karrick. When the pre-school teacher drives to her new home down the road from Hebron, she encounters so many fast-moving trucks she's afraid she'll "meet one head-on around a bend."

Sharon's fears reminded me of a conversation I had earlier with Dwayne Means. He runs Dwayne's Auto & Towing in North Bend.

"That new bridge and all its traffic could be sweet for me," he admitted. "People have wrecks. Their cars break down. I could get enough towing jobs to retire."

Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.

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