CINCINNATI - Backers of a proposed bypass highway through eastern parts of the region into Northern Kentucky are launching a study to determine the economic impact of the multibillion-dollar vision.
Citizens for the Cincy Eastern Bypass say they’re commissioning a study with the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center as part of their newly launched campaign to win support for the proposed 68-mile highway.
As proposed, the bypass would run from Interstate 75 in Franklin through Warren and Clermont counties. In New Richmond, a proposed bridge would extend the bypass into Northern Kentucky’s Campbell and Kenton counties where it would reconnect to I-71/75 near Walton.
Backers of the bypass, originally spearheaded by Northern Kentucky homebuilder Henry Fischer, have said the project could relieve congestion on I-75 and the aging Brent Spence Bridge.
But local transportation leaders have cautioned that the project is no alternative for replacing the Brent Spence Bridge. Mark Policinski, executive director of the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments, has said such a project would cost more than $5 billion and take decades of planning.
“If people want to talk about the bypass, separate from the Brent Spence Bridge, more power to them,” Policinski told WCPO late last year. “It’s not an alternative to the bridge, and the big problem remains: Where do we get the money?”
Still, some supporters also make the case that the highway would open up thousands of acres of land along the route for new business investment and development opportunities. That’s what makes the UC study critical, said Clermont County Commissioner David Uible.
“More than the project’s cost, it’s really the economic impact– the return we would see that matters most,” said Uible, who is also among the board members of the Citizens for Cincy Eastern Bypass, the newly created lobbying nonprofit that also includes Northern Kentucky business owners Phyllis Sparks and Charles Coleman.
“We’re trying to keep this as simple as possible so that we can clearly say what the cost and benefit could be for the region,” he said.
If all goes as planned, the group expects to have the UC study results back by the end of April.
Meanwhile, this week the group expects to meet to look over new estimates of the bypass’s potential cost as calculated by Clermont County engineer Patrick Manger, Uible said. Late last year he asked Manger to examine the project and offer his own projections, which came in around $2 billion versus the originally estimated $1.6 billion.
“This was his first stab at it, but we’re in the ballpark of the original estimate, which is encouraging,” Uible said.
As more firm estimates come in, Uible said he expects the campaign to turn its focus on funding for the project.
“The big question will be, what dollars do we go for?” he said. “That’s the going to be the key. We could go completely public or public-private. There are lots of ways to get the project done, and that’s one of our next steps.”