Sunday, August 06, 2000



        January - The Ohio River floods to levels of nearly 80 feet, devastating the waterfront. Before the flood, as many as 10,000 people lived below Third Street, which would become Fort Washington Way. Many residents moved away, leaving the riverfront abandoned to all but a few businesses.


The WAY of the future
Getting Around: a map
Opening dates
Easier to drive
Safety: Issues remain
How it got it's name
Timeline of the renovation
Money: where it came from, where it went
        July — The city releases its metropolitan master plan, which calls for a new “distributor” that would replace Third Street and serve as a major artery for downtown. Plan also included proposals for a heliport, apartment buildings, a baseball stadium to replace Crosley Field, and a government center.

        October — City council was asked by City Manager W.R. Kellogg to adopt a resolution proposing to cooperate with the state Highway Department in the construction of the Third Street Distributor.


        April - The federal government passes a $51.5 billion highway funding bill, largest in history.

        The bill enables Cincinnati officials to finalize plans for the Third Street Distributor, two major north-south highways through town that would become the Northeast Expressway and the Millcreek Expressway - later known as Interstates 71 and 75, respectively. The bill also funded construction of two bridges - one would become the Brent Spence Bridge - and a northern bypass that would later become part of I-275.

        September — Construction on the highway begins by way of demolition of several buildings along Third Street.


        January - Construction starts. Project to take 30 months, meaning a completion date sometime in the summer of 1960. Overall estimated costs: $20 million, with $11 million for land acquisition and the rest for engineering and construction.


        January - The Anthony Wayne Memorial Board, an organization dedicated to the memory of the former general who helped found the city's first fort in the late 1700s, suggests the name “Fort Washington Freeway” for the Third Street Distributor. Other public suggestions: “Queen City Freeway,” “Cincinnati Gateway,” “Queen's Freeway,” and “Cincinnatus Parkway.”

        March - Cincinnati City Council officially renames the Third Street Distributor “Fort Washington Way,” although residents use the former name for years to come.


        May - City says new Fort Washington Way will not open until the following summer, because of a previous agreement with Green Lines bus company to keep at least one ramp into Dixie Terminal operating. Green Line refuses to reroute bus service.


        June 29 - Fort Washington Way opens to much fanfare, including fireworks, a parade and official ribbon-cutting. Final cost: $21 million.


        November — Brent Spence Bridge officially opens. Costing $10 million, it connects with Mill Creek Expressway (I-75) and Fort Washington Way. It is designed to handle about 6,000 vehicles a day, but eventually routes as many as 125,000 vehicles daily.


        February - Ground is broken on Riverfront Stadium, leading to the construction of several new exits on and off Fort Washington Way over the coming years.


        March - Riverfront Stadium opens.


        May - Construction begins on the Ohio side of what would become I-471.


        City officials compile development plan that includes new stadiums for the Bengals and Reds and a way to span Fort Washington Way and spur development along riverfront.


        September — DCI asks the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) to study ways to improve Fort Washington Way, which is carrying more than 120,000 vehicles daily. It was designed to handle 90,000.

        The city hires Urban Design Consultants (UDA) to make recommendations on Fort Washington Way.


        November - UDA recommends that any new stadiums be placed along the riverfront, Fort Washington Way be narrowed and downtown streets reconnected with the riverfront.

        Hamilton County voters approve a new half-cent sales tax for physical improvements, namely new stadiums for the Bengals and Reds.


        January — OKI presents reconstruction plan, which calls for the removal of all exits into downtown along a newly designed trench, the creation of two new surface “distributor streets,” and bridges that would connect downtown surface streets with the waterfront. Initial cost estimate: $96 million.

        March — City of Cincinnati approves OKI plan, and soon thereafter signs $120.5 million agreement with the state.

        May — Fort Washington Way project team is formed. The team is made up of representatives from Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio Department of Transportation, Kentucky Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, OKI, Downtown Cincinnati Inc., Metro, Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky and ARTIMIS (Advanced Regional Traffic Interactive Management & Information System).

        July - State of Ohio pledges to pay for $80 million of the project.

        October - Finance plan approved with the city pledging to pay $16.5 million; Hamilton County, $14 million; the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI), $8 million; and SORTA (Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority), $2 million.

        November - Ohio Gov. George Voinovich announces $20 million advance for the project.


        February — Hamilton County agrees to pay for $10 million of project and split cost of new $14 million flood wall with the city.

        March — Cincinnati City Council approves a $146.9 million budget for highway construction that adds new connections and improves existing exits.

        May — Federal highway bill includes $9.5 million for Kentucky that is used to improve connections between new Fort Washington Way and existing bridges, specifically the Taylor-Southgate bridge from Newport to Broadway.

        July - Reconstruction on the highway begins. All eastbound ramps are closed.

        August - All westbound ramps are closed.

        November - Covington city and Kenton County officials pledge another $6.9 million to the project to create a connection between the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge and a new Second Street. That brings Kentucky's total contribution to $14.4 million.

        December — Ohio's Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) announces the state will pay for $11.5 million of a new two-level transit center below Second Street. Final estimated costs of the project: $42 million.

        Hamilton County agrees to pay $8 million in sewer renovations to be done in conjunction with the highway project. The final costs eventually reach $10.6 million, with some overruns caused when workers had to replace pipes that wouldn't fit.


        April - The westbound lanes of Fort Washington Way close for four months.

        August — City officials announce that the Eggleston Avenue exit off I-75 will remain open after construction is finished, but at an additional cost of $5.9 million. Another $5.4 million is added to provide continued access to Cinergy Field and the Firstar Center during construction.


        May - Hamilton County commissioners vote to contribute $2 million to pay for pilings for possible decking over the highway.

        June - The bridge across Walnut Street opens.

        Designers disclose that a ramp from Third Street to I-75 north was added two years into the project, and has not yet received approval from the Ohio Department of Transportation - meaning the partially completed connection may not open for several years.

        July - New exits from I-75 North onto Fifth Street and the new Sixth Street viaduct open.

        August — Most of a new Second Street and a reconfigured Third Street are scheduled to open, along with two lanes in each direction of the I-71/U.S. 50 trench.

        Compiled by James Pilcher from Enquirer archives