Friday, August 04, 2000

Turbulence ahead on drive to airport

Road projects increase traffic snarls

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HEBRON — A word to the wise: if you're headed to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport any time soon, give yourself plenty of time or take a chance on watching your plane fly away without you.

        That's the story from airport and highway officials about the continuing road construction at the Donaldson Road/Interstate-71/75 interchange and Interstate-275 west from I-75 to Ky. 237.

        “I've been hearing from Delta ticket agents that people are missing their flights and telling stories of being stuck in traffic for an hour or more,” airport communications director Ted Bushelman said Thursday.

        The problem is a combination of a relatively new or ange barrel onslaught on I-275 west, where crews are preparing to resurface and add lanes, combined with the continuing reconstruction of the highway and overpass at the Donaldson Road interchange, which has been going on for months.

        A traffic accident in either location, or something as simple as a temporary lane change, can back up traffic for miles and snare travelers on their way to the airport.

        Larry Trenkamp, branch manager of construction for the Kentucky Highway Department, said Thursday motorists can expect to see the highway dividers and orange barrels at both sites for nearly a year.

        “The Donaldson Road project is slated to run through most of next year,” he said. “It includes reconstruction of the bridge and removal and rebuilding of the highway surface. We'll be finished with the southbound lanes this fall, but

        work on the northbound lanes won't be completed until next year and that will continue to impact the southbound lanes.”

        The reconstruction on I-275 west in Boone County began with preparation work in May. Highway workers are preparing to divert eastbound traffic to the westbound side, using repaved shoulders to carry the two-way traffic. This work also will continue into 2001.

        Robert Hunter of Symmes Township wrote a letter to The Enquirer after he was held up in traffic Monday on I-275 west, where traffic was reduced from two lanes to one. He missed his flight and reported that several other people were caught in the same predicament.

        “What happened in that instance was a crane broke down in the morning and blocked one of the lanes,” Mr. Trenkamp explained. “Normally, there are two lanes open on I-275 from the I-75 ramp to the airport.”

        Mr. Hunter, who flies out of the airport every Monday morning for his job, said Thursday he felt much better knowing that the traffic backup was not due to some scheduled construction. He did board another flight two hours later.

        “I have about a 40-minute drive to the airport from home, and I leave at 7 a.m. for a 8:40 a.m. flight,” he said. “I couldn't imagine that anyone would plan to block a lane at that time of day, but I was really upset Monday.”

        Attempts to reach a Delta Air Lines spokesman were unsuccessful Thursday. Delta personnel at the airport said they could not comment on how many, if any, people had missed flights because of traffic problems.

        Mr. Bushelman said that in most instances traffic “sails through there and you don't know there's a problem. Other times it can back up. I sent notices to all the airlines some time back advising them that the construction was starting.”

        “I would advise people to give themselves an extra hour to get to the airport,” he said. “It's better to spend a little more time at the airport than get caught in traffic and miss your flight.”

        Mr. Trenkamp added that there is no way to plan for a delay if it is caused by a traffic accident, so leaving well ahead of your flight time is a good idea.

        “I would also recommend that people check with ARTIMIS (traffic control system) before they leave home, to find out if there are any traffic problems on the interstates,” he said. “They can also listen to local radio stations for traffic updates, especially at peak traffic times in the morning and evening.”

        ARTIMIS can be reached by dialing 333-3333 or 211 from any telephone in Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky or on the Web at


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