By Patrick Crowley
Enquirer staff writer
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS - New ramps on both ends of Interstate 471 will be considered as part of a major study of the short but vital five-mile stretch of highway.
The $1 million federally funded study will begin next year and look at all facets of the busy, 23-year-old corridor that serves much of Northern Kentucky and links downtown Cincinnati with its booming suburbs.
"It's going to be ridiculously complex," said Campbell County Judge-executive Steve Pendery said Tuesday.
Traffic tie-ups have become all too common on both ends of I-471:
South, where I-471 intersects with I-275 and handles downtown commuter traffic from eastern Hamilton and Clermont counties as well as Kenton and Boone counties in Northern Kentucky.
North, at the Ohio River, where officials say new ramps are needed to handle traffic heading for Newport on the Levee and other riverfront attractions and businesses. Traffic routinely clogs at the Route 8 ramp in Newport, particularly on weekends and especially in the southbound lanes when motorists heading to the levee back up on the Daniel Carter Beard "Big Mac" bridge.
Pendery and other Campbell County officials, including mayors and city administrators, were briefed Tuesday by Mark Policinski, director of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments.
Known as OKI, the group coordinates planning and funding of federally funded highway projects and studies in the region.
"We want to take a look at the future of this vital artery that runs through the region," Policinski said.
He said the study would look at the construction of new ramps at the north and south ends of the interstate. Cost projections of the project will be included in the study.
Building a new ramp at Ky. 8 in Newport would cost about $24 million alone, city and state officials have estimated.
Officials said they were glad to hear about the study, but also had some recommendations for what it should include.
I-471 runs through portions of Highland Heights, Fort Thomas, Newport Bellevue, Woodlawn, Southgate and a small patch of unincorporated Campbell County.
Fort Thomas City Administrator Jeff Earlywine suggested the study be expanded to include a look at the stretch of I-275 that runs from Campbell County north into Cincinnati over the Combs-Hehl Bridge.
Northbound lanes over the bridge frequently back up with traffic heading to Coney Island, Riverbend Music Center and River Downs.
And Newport City Administrator Phil Ciafardini stressed that it would be helpful if any improvements to I-471 could be made before the massive replacement of the I-75 Brent Spence Bridge between Cincinnati and Covington.
Traffic diverted from the Brent Spence project, which is several years away, could likely end up on I-471, Policinski acknowledged.
I-471 improvements, including ramps in Newport, would help handle the increase in traffic, officials said.
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