Pat LaFleur reports on transportation and mobility for WCPO.
CINCINNATI -- Yes, we're all relieved that the construction on the Brent Spence is practically finished, but the truth is we're still facing an even more urgent bridge-related problem -- the Western Hills Viaduct.
We've already waited too long for a fix. The consequences are becoming deadly, and the problem spans beyond just cracked or fallen concrete.
Thankfully no one was hurt after the concrete fell, but it did cause an hours-long closure of the major roadway.
Federally rated in "poor" condition, the viaduct might be the structure most symbolic of Cincinnati's inability to keep up with innovative infrastructure. If it doesn't symbolize the region's roadway woes, it at least demonstrates how long we've let some things go.
The 85-year-old bridge provides the primary connection between the city's urban core and the West Side, and its last major update was decades ago, in the 1970s. It carries an estimated 55,000 vehicles each day.
As WCPO has previously reported, the bridge is considered "structurally sound" but "functionally obsolete" -- another pair of federally sanctioned terms. The bridge maintains its structural soundness due to newer steel beams installed during that last major update, which keep the concrete decking in place. The bridge is functionally obsolete, though, because it wasn't built to accommodate so many vehicles.
It's this that the Western Hills Viaduct and the Brent Spence Bridge have in common: They're not falling down, but they're over-utilized beyond their capacity for traffic.
Another thing the viaduct and the Brent Spence have in common: falling concrete, which has become a big concern for Tri-State motorists.
The viaduct is also a representation of the region's struggle to find ways to fund vital infrastructure projects. We've been talking about replacing the Brent Spence for nearly five years. We've been talking about replacing the viaduct for nearly a decade.
And we still don't know how to pay for either of them.
These changes would bring in roughly $45 million each year, but that's just the possible local contribution, Portune told WCPO just prior to his announcement.
The plan stands a chance at passing, too, since the commission's only Republican and possible opponent of Portune's larger transportation agenda, Chris Monzel, told WCPO the Western Hills Viaduct is his top transportation priority.
That sales tax would require voter approval, and the driver's license fee hike would need county commission approval. The plan also would still require a sizeable amount of state and federal funding.