City: I-71/MLK interchange will spark $325M in uptown investment

Project slated for completion in fall 2016

CINCINNATI --  City Council’s recent decision to spend $20 million to help build an interchange in the uptown area may scuttle plans for a small property tax cut, but officials said the project would provide numerous benefits in return.

For starters, it is estimated to trigger $325 million in private investment, and create between 5,900 and 7,300 permanent jobs.

Also, the interchange would help generate more than $210 million in additional tax revenues – including $33 million for the city of Cincinnati.

And if that’s not enough, the project would improve EMS and ambulance response times by three to four minutes in uptown, and provide a direct route to University of Cincinnati Medical Center and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

“It will open up the entire university and uptown area, and people will be able to get in and out more efficiently,” said Councilwoman Amy Murray.

Murray heads council’s Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee, which heard presentations Tuesday about the project’s impact.

Among those touting the benefits were officials from the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI).

About 300,000 vehicles travel through uptown daily, and 50,000 people work in the area.

The $117.9 million project will be built at Interstate 71 and Martin Luther King Drive, using local and state money.

Funding includes $21 million from the city of Cincinnati.

Council approved most of the city’s share of funding in December, one of the group’s first actions upon taking office.

Without the city’s portion, property owners could’ve expected a slight reduction in taxes beginning in 2017. That’s because council OK’d a tax increase of $10 per every $100,000 of valuation in 2012 to help pay for various city projects. The hike was set to expire in three years.

Construction is expected to begin in July, and the project will be completed in October 2016.

Gov. John Kasich has fast-tracked the project, and council’s action has quickened construction by two years – and perhaps more.

“If we had waited on traditional (state) funding, this project would not be on the drawing board,” said Mark Polincinski, OKI’s director. “It would still be in mothballs.”

As part of the deal to expedite the project, OKI has agreed to repay interest on a $25 million state loan.

“It’s a vital project for attracting jobs and economic development,” said Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld. “The sooner it gets done, the better.”

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