Officials considering netting as temporary Western Hills Viaduct fix

After chunk fell and struck a driver's windshield

CINCINNATI -- City officials are considering netting as a temporary solution to protect drivers from potentially loose concrete while they cross the aging Western Hills Viaduct.

They also insist the 85-year-old bridge remains safe.

Councilwoman Amy Murray, chair of council's transportation committee, brought up the question during her committee's meeting Monday following an incident earlier this month, when a chunk of concrete fell onto a vehicle's windshield during the evening rush hour.

 

The Western Hills Viaduct carries 55,000 vehicles each day, and it is the city's primary artery connecting Downtown to West Side neighborhoods. The fall resulted in an hours-long closure of the bridge.

Michael Moore, the city's director for the Department of Transportation and Engineering, said his team performs routine inspections on the concrete's condition, a process that involves tapping the concrete to determine if it's deteriorating.

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"Where we can't get there with an arm's-length inspection, we're discussing whether or not we can get some netting in those locations," he told the committee.

Murray inquired into the possibility of using camera-mounted drones to reach those harder-to-reach places, but Moore said visual inspection isn't sufficient for determining the concrete's condition.

"Is the bridge safe to cross, though?" Murray asked Moore.

"Yes, it's safe to cross," Moore replied. But he did not give a timeline for when any potential netting could be installed on the viaduct.

The viaduct has been a thorn in the city's side for several years. Just this past January, it gained public attention when a motorist shared a photo of an apparent crack in the concrete sidewall of a ramp connecting from the bridge.

It's estimated to cost as much as $310 million to build a replacement bridge, a financial project the city is working with county and state officials to launch, Moore said.

Pat LaFleur reports on transportation and mobility for WCPO. Connect with him on Twitter (@pat_laFleur).

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