Tuesday, August 22, 2000

FWW project may set trend

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The financial cooperation between state and local entities that enabled Fort Washington Way to be rebuilt in two years on budget could serve as a model, the executive director of the Ohio Department of Transportation said Monday.

        “With the task we had, we couldn't use the traditional highway management and procedures,” said Gordon Proctor while touring the new Elm Street bridge spanning the reconfigured highway. “We had to forget about the rule book ... and this can be done elsewhere.”

  Sources of funding for the $314 million Fort Washington Way project:
  Federal (12 percent)
  • Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments: $14.5 million
  • Southern Ohio Regional Transit Authority: $2 million
  • Kentucky High Priority Funds: $9.4 million
  • Kentucky Surface Program Funds: $5 million
  • Ohio High Priority Funds: $8 million
       State of Ohio (54 percent)
  • Fort Washington Way project: $80 million
  • Third Street viaduct: $32 million
  • Enchancements: $210,000
  • Highway: $8 million
  • Transportation Review Advisory Council funds: $39.4 million
       Other (34 percent)
  • City of Cincinnati: $50.2 million
  • City of Cincinnati (State Infrastructure Bank loan): $20 million
  • Hamilton County: $19.8 million
  • Metropolitan Sewer District: $10.7 million
  • Cincinnati Water Works: $3.9 million
  • Private sponsors: $255,000

  Total: $313.4 million
        Mr. Proctor, installed as ODOT executive director by Gov. Bob Taft in May, also attended a private lunch held to thank contractors who worked on the $314 million project.

        More than half of Fort Washington Way — including the streamlined connection between Interstates 71 and 75, a new Second Street and reconfigured Third Street — opened last week, nearly two weeks ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline.

        And officials were able to keep within the original budget of $146 million for the actual road construction, 54 percent of which came from ODOT. The total budget includes amendments and improvements such as a new sewer system and connections not in the original plan.

        The key to the success, Mr. Proctor said, is that local officials were willing to take on some of the financial risk — and received the reward of a quick completion in return.

        The city paid $50.2 million and borrowed $20 million more to foot 22 percent of the total bill, while Hamilton County contributed $20 million (6 percent). Other agencies included the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments, and even the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Sources other than federal or state agencies made up 34 percent of all funding.

  • What opened Friday
  • What opened last Monday
  • The opening of the rest of Second Street, from Vine to Main Street, probably by Labor Day.
  • The opening of an additional lane leading onto Fort Washington Way from both ends, probably by Thanksgiving. The lanes are closed while decorative wall panels are being finished.
        “And there was a lot of risk,” Mr. Proctor said. “We could've run into the foundation of the original Fort Washington that would've meant an archaeological dig, or an unknown hazardous waste dump or who-knows-what that could've slowed down the process by years.”

        With local participation comes faster completion times, Mr. Proctor said, pointing to the recently completed Butler Regional Highway that links Hamilton with I-75.

        Also known as the Michael A. Fox Highway, the four-lane road cost $158 million and was completed in December. That was eight months ahead of schedule, and partially paid for by local funds from Butler County and Hamilton.

        “Those two are different models of project delivery, but with the same result,” Mr. Proctor said. “People ask us all the time why a project takes so long. It's not the project that takes so long, it's paying for it — the state can only afford so much at a time. So the local input not only gives people what they want, but when they want it.”

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