Sunday, October 31, 2004

Boone aims to keep road from slipping into river

By Brenna R. Kelly
Enquirer staff writer

UNION - Three years ago, Hanna Grabow and her husband decided to move to their Ohio River home permanently.

"I love it here. It's a beautiful place," she said. "I just can't think of living anywhere else."

But recently, Grabow wondered whether the river would wash away her retirement dreams along with the road in front of her home.

For years, Boone County has struggled to keep Ryle Road, which is squeezed between the river and a steep hill, from falling into the water. The narrow road was once a horse path, used to light lanterns to guide boats along the river. Now it's lined with houses and an entrance to a subdivision.

"A real serious slip has developed in the last couple of years," said County Administrator Jim Parsons.

Four houses, including Grabow's, are most affected. When the slide got worse this March, Grabow thought she might have to move.

"We could never buy another place on the river," said Grabow, who used the house as a weekend home while the family lived in Erlanger.

Thanks to emergency funding from the state, Boone County hopes to fix the slide next month. On Tuesday, Fiscal Court will review bids for the project to fix 600 feet of the road at a cost of about $616,000.

The county will use $250,000 from the state for emergency repairs to rural roads, Parsons said. The county also hopes to get another $200,000 in state money that can be used for county roads.

The county would have to find another $166,000 to complete the project - money that was not budgeted this year, Parsons said.

To fix the slide, workers would drill large holes until they reached rock, said Greg Sketch, county engineer. Reinforced steel beams would then be inserted into the rock, and the shafts filled with concrete.

This Ryle Road slide is particularly hard to fix because the rock is very deep, he said.

Tom Lonneman, who has had a weekend home on Ryle for about seven years, helped organize residents in asking the county to fix the road.

"The county realized something had to be done," he said. "It just had to get to the right people and right approach."

Grabow said a contractor preparing his bid at the site warned her that the road would be impassable for a while.

But even if this slide is fixed, there are about 10 other active slides along the road, Sketch said.

That's what worries Parsons. The county spends $2 million each year to maintain all county roads. So spending $600,000 "on a very sparsely traveled part of the county is a big commitment," he said.


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