Thursday, January 29, 2004

Eastern corridor transit plans open for discussion

Workshops cover $1B proposal

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

OAKLEY - The first in a series of five public workshops gets under way today on a proposal for expanded bus, rail and highway transportation along the eastern corridor of Hamilton County into Clermont County.

A series of community workshops is under way for the multi-modal Eastern Corridor transportation study:

•  Today: 6-9 p.m., Oakley Recreation and Senior Center, 3882 Paxton Road

•  Feb. 4: 6-9 p.m., Madisonville Recreation Center, 5320 Stewart Road

•  Feb. 5: 5- 8 p.m., Anderson Senior Center, 7970 Beechmont Avenue

•  Feb. 10: 5-8 p.m., Faith Christian Fellowship Church in Newtown, 6800 School St.

•  Feb. 11: 5-8 p.m., Eastgate Mall, 4601 Eastgate Blvd.

After today's 6-9 p.m. session at the Oakley Recreation and Senior Center, other workshops are scheduled in Madisonville, Anderson Township, Newtown and Eastgate through Feb. 11.

"We are addressing the long-range community needs and quality of life issues," said Hamilton County Commissioner John Dowlin, one of the plan's biggest supporters. "This project is much more than a transportation study and that is why the public's input is critical."

The Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District is conducting the community workshops and an Eastern Corridor study with other governmental agencies such as Cincinnati and Clermont County officials and the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments.

The Eastern Corridor plan has been controversial for years, chiefly because a new, 10-mile-long, four- to six-lane highway is proposed to link Interstate 71 to Interstate 275.

That would require installing a bridge over the Little Miami River, which is fueling controversy among environmental and river groups.

Environmental impact studies are under way on the project, which, in all, is anticipated to cost about $1 billion. That sum includes new roads, bike and walking trails, improved intersections and expanded bus routes.

There also is a proposal for commuter rail along Cincinnati's central riverfront and into eastern Hamilton County and western Clermont County.

The soonest that parts of a new highway could be built would be 2008 but residents could see improved bus lines and biking and walking trails before that, said Richard Record of BalkeAmerican, a consultant on the project.

The most viable piece now appears to be a light rail line using diesel-propelled trains between downtown Cincinnati and Milford on existing tracks; a first stage would run downtown to Newtown, Record said.

The two remaining proposed routes are:

• Along the Ohio River from the Montgomery Inn Boathouse west along Pete Rose Way to the Riverfront Transit Center under Second Street.

• From the Boathouse west through Sawyer Point Park with stops on the river side of Great American Ballpark and Paul Brown Stadium before looping to the transit center.

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