Sunday, August 13, 2000

Truckers welcome end of detours

Ft. Washington Way ban cost time, money

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When Fort Washington Way reopens Monday morning, downtown commuters won't be the only ones rejoicing.

        After two years and about 5,000 citations, wide vehicles will be allowed back on the reconfigured highway, meaning many fewer headaches for truckers.

Opening dates
Easier to drive
Way of the future
Safety issues remain
        “I'd estimate that it cost us an extra $300 to $500 a day to avoid that short connection,” said Jason Jones, dis patcher for Sharonville-based Mason Dixon Truck Lines, of the 0.8-mile stretch that connects Interstates 71 and 75. “Obviously it was a pain for us time-wise as well. We plan to get good use out of the new highway.”

        Fort Washington Way, which has been closed to all traffic since Friday night, reopens at 5 a.m. Monday. Also opening: a reconfigured Third Street — which switches direction to east-to-west — and the ramps from Columbia Parkway (U.S. 50) west to Fort Washington Way and Third Street.

        The total project is costing $314 million, with about $146 million devoted to the actual Fort Washington Way reconfiguration.

        Three lanes of the westbound main line connecting Interstates 71 and 75 will open, while eastbound travel will be limited to two lanes.

        On Friday, a new Second Street that runs west-to-east opens, along with connections to that street from Elm, Race and Vine streets.

        But for truckers, the big news is that they no longer have to avoid Fort Washington Way or risk getting a ticket that carried maximum penalties of 30 days in jail and $500 in fines.

        “Every mile counts for these guys,” said Mr. Jones, who oversees 23 tractor-trailers, seven of which make local deliveries only. “We'll probably send as many as 10 trucks through a day now that it's open.”

        Cincinnati Police Lt. Robert Hungler, who directs the city's traffic division, said officers issued about 5,000 tickets to violators of the wide-vehicle ban.

        The highway was shut down several times over the past two years when trucks crashed trying to squeeze through. The city tacked on a mandatory court appearance for alleged violators midway through the project, and posted information about the ban at Tristate truck stops and rest areas.

        Project officials had no estimates for how many trucks used the highway before construction started, but the overall number was about 125,000 vehicles.

        “We're kind of crossing our fingers that we don't get any more trucks than we had before,” said Lt. Hungler. “But even if more trucks use it, the design should be able to eliminate the problems we've had in the past.”

        Lt. Hungler said police officers will be at almost every street corner from Third to Sixth streets to minimize confusion, with special attention focused on Third Street.

        “You'll know it if you turn the wrong way on Third, if the oncoming traffic doesn't let you know,” Lt. Hungler said.

        As for the mainline trench, the speed limit will remain 45 mph until all eight lanes of Fort Washington Way (four each direction) open later this year.

        But the lanes opening Monday will be 12 feet wide. And through truck traffic on I-71 north or south won't have to change lanes to continue on its way, Lt. Hungler said.

        “If it wasn't safe, they wouldn't have opened it back up,” Mr. Jones said. “It seems to me they put a lot of thought into it, and I'm glad, because we can start using it again.”

        Wide Vehicle Ban

        • About 5,000 tickets issued to violators since ban was put in place in July 1998.

        • Of the citations where the truck company was listed (about 1,200), about 145 companies have had multiple citations since December 1998.

        Most of these companies are located outside the Tristate.

        • Drivers from 40 states have been cited since December 1998.

        Since tracking began, most drivers cited have been from:

        • Ohio (177)

        • Tennessee (125)

        • Illinois (133)

        • Indiana (86)

        • Kentucky (59)

        Source: Dan Pinger Public Relations


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