As Congress debates massive infrastructure bill, these local projects could see windfall

western hills viaduct 2020 rendering.PNG
Posted at 5:20 PM, Jun 09, 2021

CINCINNATI — A Cincinnati bridge that is nearly 100 years old is getting attention on the national level.

The U.S. House of Representatives began debating a bill Wednesday that infuses road, transit and rail projects with new money over the next five years. That includes the 89-year-old Western Hills Viaduct that feeds and receives Interstate 75 traffic into and out of Cincinnati's West Side, along with five other road and bridge improvements across the Tri-State.

"I think, hoorah!" said Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus. "I think, you know, we have a ways to go on the Western Hills Viaduct, but we've been working for a number of years to try to get that financial stack together."

Driehaus has been pushing Congress to help pay for the$335-milion project since 2017. The proposed bill in the House would put $15 million toward it.

In the past, some politicians called the earmark process corrupt and unfair because lawmakers submit favored projects. Democrats and Republicans typically craft separate bills that pick which projects to fund. This one would use $5.7 billion in taxpayer dollars for nearly 1,500 projects across the country.

"Obviously, these projects, these megaprojects, take years to kind of get off the ground and construct," said Ohio Department of Transportation spokesperson Kathleen Fuller.

Fuller said this proposal also would put more than $8.6 million toward improving a stretch of Interstate 75 north of the Brent Spence Bridge, notorious for traffic jams.

"Roughly, Findlay Street to Marshall Avenue area," said Fuller. "It will be tying into the Western Hills Viaduct project."

The proposal lists six total projects connected to Greater Cincinnati:

  • Kenton County: KY 536 from Williamswood Rd. to Calvary Dr. to KY 17: $12.06 million
  • Boone County: KY 18/Super Street construction: $5.2 million
  • Covington: KY17/Scott Boulevard/Greenup Street for congestion reduction traffic improvement project in Covington: $2 million
  • Cincinnati: Aicholtz Road roundabouts: $2 million
  • Cincinnati: I-75 north of Brent Spence: $8.64 million
  • Cincinnati: Western Hills Viaduct replacement: $15 million

Lawmakers expect to negotiate and continue coming up with changes at this point in the process. They do not expect to vote until late summer 2021 at the earliest.