FORT MITCHELL, Ky. — City officials declared an emergency on Tuesday for Northern Kentucky travelers using the I-71/I-75 corridor. A series of Saturday crashes involving semitrailers destroyed about 70 feet of concrete barrier dividing opposite lanes of traffic, and more than 500 feet of barrier will have to be replaced to repair all the damaged areas.
"I-75 in Fort Mitchell is extremely dangerous to motorists at this time," Kenton County Judge-Executive Kris Knochelmann said Tuesday.
Repairs were set to begin immediately, and officials said they expect the emergency declaration to speed the process up before winter. In the meantime, however, they encouraged travelers to slow down and drive carefully.
"We urge extreme caution when traveling on I-75 near and through Fort Mitchell,” Mayor Jude Hehman said. "We will work to ensure that a long-term fix for this dangerous curve will remain a priority for state and Federal transportation officials.”
The Fort Mitchell Public House sits just off the interstate, near the site of the weekend's four crashes. That gives owner Mike Hang a front-row seat to the traffic headache.
"It'll go anywhere from full speed to a parking lot," said Fort Mitchell Public House owner Mike Hang.
The emergency declaration will help get the road fixed faster because it allows the state to hire a contractor directly without having to bid the job out, according to Knochelmann.
"It kind of supersedes the other traditional methods and allows us to get it done quicker," Kenton County judge-executive Kris Knochelmann said.
Knochelmann said the repair work taking place just south of the Dixie Highway exit includes fixing the barrier as well as the pavement on the highway itself.
"(The highway) needs to be roughed up or made so that the wind, especially during the rain, that cars traveling it don't slip or slide into the barrier wall," Knochelmann said.
Drivers traveling through the area said the repairs can't come soon enough.
"This is one of the busiest thoroughfares in the state, so having a large wreck there especially during winter is going to completely congest everything and that's one of the main arteries into Cincinnati and that's really a disaster," said driver Matthew Johnson.
After the crashes, officials put up a temporary concrete barrier along I-75. Knochelmann said pavement work should begin in the next week or two.
Drivers should expect to see stepped-up speed limit and traffic enforcement in the area for the immediate future.