By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer
EAST END - Nervous residents and merchants, worried about traffic headaches and dips in business, will learn more this week about an $8.5 million replacement of the Columbia Parkway bridge.
Ohio Department of Transportation officials plan meetings in the East End and in Mount Adams.
The first phase of the project, to begin in early 2004, will last nine months and will close the Interstate 471 ramp to Columbia Parkway and the Martin Street exit to Mount Adams. A second phase, at the end of 2004, will close the Martin Street exit onto Columbia Parkway.
Residents and merchants fear the worst.
"A lot of people are going to have a difficult time," Mike Ferguson said Saturday. He is a co-owner of the Wine Cellar in Mount Adams.
"People are going to have a hard time trying to find an alternative route. They are going to have to show people how to get up here," he said. "They don't do a very good job to begin with and most people get lost when they come up here."
The project is expected to begin next spring and could disrupt traffic for two years. But the work must be done, said Ron Mosby, a state transportation spokesman. "We are doing everything possible to keep the disruptions to a minimum," he said. "Since we are keeping the bridge open, it will take us a bit longer because they have to replace it in sections."
The bridge is the only one in Hamilton County rated in "serious" condition. Last year, crews did work to shore up a deteriorated pier until the 2004 work could begin. About 25,000 cars use the road daily.
Brian Breneman, president of the East End Area Council, said he was caught off guard by the scope of the project and its timeline.
"Nine months seems like a very long time to have the 471 interchange closed," he said.
State officials will speak Monday at the East End Area Council's 7 p.m. meeting at LeBlond recreation center, 2335 Eastern Ave.
On Tuesday, officials will visit the 7:30 p.m. Mount Adams Civic Association meeting at Holy Cross Immaculata Church, 30 Guido St.
Officials will outline the project and answer questions. They also will provide detours and maps.
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