I-71 project this spring will ease congestion (eventually) between the Norwood Lateral and Red Bank

But expect backups, exit changes til it's done

CINCINNATI -- Construction slated to begin this spring aims to ease congestion on Interstate 71 between state Route 562 (the Norwood Lateral) and Red Bank Expressway.

The project is designed to increase the interstate's capacity by reconfiguring exits and extending an existing interstate lane.

"That's an area where there's a lot of back-ups," said Hamilton County Engineer Ted Hubbard.

The project will remove the Ridge Avenue North exit and add a new exit from I-71 onto Kennedy Avenue. 

"There are congestion issues that the … existing ramp creates," said Brian Cunningham, communications manager for Ohio Department of Transportation District 8.

The Ridge Avenue South exit will remain but will be renamed as the Ridge Avenue exit. The exit already allows drivers to turn northbound or southbound onto Ridge Avenue.

Ridge Avenue will be widened to include two northbound lanes beyond Duck Creek Road, where it currently narrows to one lane.

The construction also will extend the I-71 exit-only lane that currently ends at Ridge Avenue North. The lane will extend to the new Kennedy Avenue exit.

"That will help traffic flow in that area to get off of I-71, but it also will help through traffic by extending the through lane," Cunningham said.

Drivers can expect congestion and traffic delays to continue -- and possibly worsen -- when construction starts up.

"It should be expected that there will be various lane closures from just south of Ridge up to probably right around Kennedy," Cunningham said.

The project might require some exit closures as well, he added.

"Right now, it's all preliminary," he said.

While the construction will likely add to congestion in the short-term, the increased capacity on I-71 should decrease delays and increase safety once complete.

"The additional lane will actually add capacity and unclog a choke-point that exists today," Hubbard said.

ODOT officials have not yet awarded a contract for the project, which is expected to cost about $8 million. The cost will be covered through a combination of state and federal funds.

No official start date has been established, but ODOT representatives anticipate the improvements will take about a year-and-a-half to complete. 

"We're shooting for fall of 2019 (for completion)," Cunningham said.

A separate project to resurface portions of I-71 also is expected to resume this spring in the same area. The first of two remaining sections to be resurfaced stretches from state Route 562 and state Route 126. The second will cover I-71 from state Route 126 to just south of I-275.

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