Friday, June 16, 2000

Road plan threatens tranquility

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        TAYLOR MILL — When John Rennekamp's family moved to Taylor Mill Road in 1950, “you could sit out front and count the cars that go by all day on one hand,” he recalls.

        Today, a steady line of cars speeds by so fast that it's nearly impossible to turn onto the busy state route — Ky. 16 — during evening rush hour, Mr. Rennekamp said.

        “They seem to be in a big hurry all the time,” he said. “Now and then, people take the curve a little too fast, and end up in my front yard.”

        In a letter to Taylor Mill residents last year, the city council wrote that too many points of access onto the 4.3-mile corridor from Interstate 275 to Hands Pike has resulted in “a dangerous road that is heavily burdened and in desperate need of modifications.”

        To improve safety and reduce traffic on the curvy, two-lane road, the district office of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has proposed a five-lane route that takes much of the traffic away from Ky. 16.

        Not everyone is happy with that proposal though.

        Jamie Schworer, whose childhood home on Robertson Road would be near the proposed road, has gathered more than 500 signatures of residents and business people who oppose the new route, which would take 67 homes, businesses and farms in Taylor Mill and Covington.

        The 32-year-old owner of the Schworer Beverly Hills Limousine Service here has attempted to rally residents against the realignment. Yellow signs urging, “Stop Taylor Mill five-lane highway,” dot parts of the route. Paper and online petitions and a hot-line number also register public opinion.

        “It'll destroy the whole community and the rural look of Taylor Mill,” Ms. Schworer said. “It'll be almost as if a tornado came through and tore out the town.”

        Next month, Ms. Schworer plans to meet with Rep. Thomas Kerr, D-Taylor Mill; Sen. Jack Westwood, R-Erlanger, and representatives of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

        “As soon as you bring in a five-lane road, it's going to be all commercial, like Houston Road in Florence,” Ms. Schworer said. “People did not move to rural Taylor Mill to live on Houston Road.”

        Karen Chalfant said she and her husband built a new home on Robertson Road three years ago, largely because of the peaceful atmosphere in the hilly, wooded neighborhood.

        “I just feel like they're taking the nicest part of Taylor Mill, just so people from Independence can get to the expressway faster,” Mrs. Chalfant said.

        Lois Spenlau, who would lose some acreage off her farm on Old Taylor Mill Road, agreed.

        “I don't think the road's going to benefit Taylor Mill,” she said. “It's going to benefit the people south of Taylor Mill. That's where all the new subdivisions are.”

        The route proposed by the state's district highway office — which is about a year away from final approval — calls for widening Ky. 16 to five lanes at I-275 on the north end, cutting over to Old Taylor Mill Road about a half mile away, following Old Taylor Mill Road south until it merges again with Ky. 16, then switching over to each side of Ky. 16 to avoid historic structures and Taylor Mill Elementary School. The road widening would end a half mile south of Hands Pike, or Hands Road.

        District highway officials are looking at shifting that alignment somewhat, in an effort to save homes on Robertson Road, said Richard Guidi, a transportation engineering branch manager.

        “The homes would be spared, but they would still have a new road next to them,” he said.

        A study on the environmental impact of the proposed route also is under way, and preliminary results are expected this fall, Mr. Guidi said. A public hearing on the environmental impact of the new route would then be scheduled early next year, and approval of the final environmental document would likely come next spring.

        “We can't finalize the route until we have all our environmental studies done,” Mr. Guidi said. The current schedule calls for right-of-way acquisition in 2003 and construction starting in 2005.

        Taylor Mill Administrator Jill Cain said city council has endorsed the route largely in hopes of getting concessions, such as a tree-lined boulevard along the new route, additional greenery to act as buffers between the new road and nearby homes, and sidewalks on both sides of Taylor Mill Road to get residents to the city's new park.

        “I hate to see anyone lose their home because of a highway, but we need to do something about the problem on (Ky.) 16,” Mr. Rennekamp said.


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