Saturday, February 7, 2004

Brent Spence tunnel option too expensive

Ask a question

By Dave Hofmeister
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Question: Replacing the Brent Spence Bridge with a tunnel might be a very cost-effective and far-reaching economic development solution. Will a study be undertaken as an alternative to just replacing the bridge? Today's technology and engineering learned in part through the "Big Dig" project in Boston might reduce the costs and provide a multitude of long-term gains for the region.

E.H. Luttrell, West Chester

Answer: The idea of digging a tunnel under the Ohio River rather than building a new span was considered, a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet official said.

But the idea was quickly ruled out because the cost is too high, said Mike Bezold, acting branch manager for pre-construction at the District 6 office in Covington.

Transportation Cabinet officials estimated it would cost $1 billion to tunnel under the river, rather than the estimated $750 million to replace the bridge.

Add in the higher maintenance costs for a ventilation system and lights, Bezold said, and a tunnel becomes impractical.

Question: Concerning daily traffic congestion on the Brent Spence Bridge: Why not reroute the Interstate 71 vehicles going north in Kentucky to I-275 East to I-471 North? This traffic could then cross the river via the Big Mac and go from I-471 in Ohio to I-71 North. Why wouldn't it work?

Roger Koch, Oxford

Answer: The stumbling block here is the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge, also known as the Big Mac.

Bezold said that the Big Mac, just like the Brent Spence, already is handling more traffic than it was designed for - for the Big Mac, about one-third more. Emergency lanes have been taken out on both to accommodate more traffic, but this carries a risk.

From the columnist: Each year, thousands of people in Southwest Ohio get a summons to serve on a jury. Some go willingly; others gripe about missing work or other obligations.

But many others never get the call, even though they might be willing to serve.

I wondered: Why not allow volunteers to serve on juries?

In New York, residents can fill out a brief application, answer a few questions and, if they pass muster, are put in the jury pool (they cannot apply to serve in a specific case). Dawn Signoracci, a court analyst in Albany County, N.Y., said the system has been in place for more than a decade.

In Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, volunteerism isn't allowed.

Ohio counties, like many states, uses registered voter lists to select prospective jurors. In Clermont County, for example, a computer randomly picks about 13,000 names each July from the county's 114,000 registered voters, said Peggy Forman, jury commissioner. Each week, about 175 letters go out, notifying residents to report for duty.

To some, about the only thing worse than getting that letter would be a notice from the IRS. People make up every excuse imaginable to avoid jury duty.

But if you're like me and would enjoy the experience of serving on a jury, you'll just have to wait for that letter.

Or, move to New York.

Have a question? E-mail Dave Hofmeister at, or mail to Ask a Question, The Cincinnati Enquirer, 7700 Service Center Drive, West Chester, OH 45069.

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