Friday, June 11, 2004

Long-range transit plan passes, minus 2 biggies

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The region's transportation planning agency Thursday unanimously approved its latest version of a long-range plan for highways and transit.

But two of the biggest projects suggested for the region in the past couple of years were not in the plan approved by the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments.

Such approval is a necessary first step toward qualifying for federal funding.

The regional light-rail plan defeated by Hamilton County voters in November 2002 is listed as a recommended action, but not officially as part of the plan. That's because the plan has to be "fiscally constrained," and no funding sources for the 60-mile, $2.6 billion light-rail plan have been identified. The plan does include a downtown streetcar proposal, as well as a light diesel line that would run from downtown to western Clermont County.

Also not in the plan is the proposed replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge. Again, the reason is that no funding has been identified. An early cost estimate for replacing the 40-year-old bridge stands at $750 million.

Overall, the plan includes about $3.6 billion in recommended lane and other capacity additions to highways in Suthwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky, or about 300 new lane miles. The plan runs through 2030 and needs to be updated every three years.

"This is important to allow the flow of federal dollars to continue for transportation," OKI division manager of transportation Bob Koehler told the board. "This will allow us to look at regional solutions to help solve this region's transportation problems ... and we all know that we have them and that they will get worse."

Koehler, who oversaw this update of the plan, said that the new additions would not affect air quality, while they would help hold down the estimated $200 million a year of lost productivity spent in traffic.


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