By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Speaking like a man who learns from his losses, Cincinnati Councilman John Cranley is now pushing hard for a new interchange off Interstate 71 at Martin Luther King Drive.
Almost a year after failing to stop a proposed interchange expansion on Interstate 75 in Liberty Township, Cranley has joined forces with a former adversary, Butler County Commissioner Mike Fox, to try to win approval for the project.
Cranley says the "Pill Hill" medical district desperately needs more interstate access because it is the region's second-largest employment area.
Almost 154,000 vehicles a day use I-71 at the Taft Road exit, and local traffic to and from the district's hospitals is unwieldy.
Cranley said a new exit could eliminate some of that surface-street traffic during rush hour.
And he said the project could spark redevelopment in Avondale, Walnut Hills and Evanston.
Cranley says the project would take five years, would cost at least $35 million and would need state and federal approval.
He intends to ask the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments next week to start the approval process. Cranley also wants to get it added to the region's list of priorities before Congress, which is about to take up a transportation authorization bill, and get enough money for at least some preliminary engineering and environmental study.
"We understand we're at the back of the list, but we want to be added to the list," said Cranley, an OKI board member who said he would help get the city to pay for at least its 20 percent local match. "But this is worth doing."
Cranley has amassed a varied coalition that includes not only Fox, but community, business, hospital and religious groups from the affected neighborhoods; and county leaders from Hamilton, Butler, Warren and Clermont in Ohio and Boone, Campbell and Kenton in Kentucky.
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