CINCINNATI -- There’s good news and bad news for drivers who utilize Interstate 71 North for their morning and evening commutes.
The good news: The Ohio Department of Transportation plans to reconfigure the highway near Ridge Road.
The bad news: The work won’t get under way for about a year, and it’ll take about a year to complete.
ODOT plans to remove the northbound Ridge Road exit and extend the second-to-right lane all the way to the Red Bank Road exit. A second dedicated left-turn lane will be added at the foot of the remaining Ridge Road exit, and Ridge Road will be widened to accommodate two lanes’ worth of traffic.
“The current configuration creates weaving and merging conditions at interchanges in the project area,” said ODOT spokesman Brian Cunningham. “We’re experiencing heavy congestion and crash rates.”
Once work is completed, the Ridge Road exit will be configured similarly to the exit from I-71 north to Kenwood Road, Cunningham said. Two left-turn lanes allow traffic onto Kenwood Road, with a third lane for traffic turning right.
I-71 North is four lanes wide from just north of downtown to Ridge Road, where the right two lanes become dedicated exit lanes for state Route 562 and two separate Ridge Road exits.
Heavy congestion during the evening rush hour has become routine as motorists attempt to merge leftward to stay on the highway. Cars entering the highway from the Dana Avenue and Edwards Road ramps must move quickly to continue north.
“If you want to go anywhere north, you better be in a very aggressive merging posture, because you’ve got to get over three lanes,” said Barry Strum, senior economic development specialist for HCDC. “Suddenly, you’re confronted with dedicated exit ramps. While that’s great if you want one of those dedicated ramps, it’s not if you want to go anywhere north.”
ODOT said the lane that now forces traffic onto the northbound Ridge Road exit will be extended to the Red Bank Road exit, where it will become that exit’s dedicated lane. The change will increase capacity and reduce the need for aggressive merging, according to ODOT project documents provided by Strum.
Ridge Road won’t be the only point of access from I-71 to the Columbia Township commercial corridor.
A new exit ramp from I-71 North to Kennedy Avenue will be constructed very close to where the northbound Ridge Road exit exists today. The entrance ramp from Kennedy to I-71 will be modified to accommodate the new exit ramp.
ODOT is scheduled to begin environmental work and right-of-way acquisition for the project within the next month, with a scheduled completion date of July 2017. Construction will begin in fall 2017.
During the project, the entirety of I-71 between the Norwood Lateral and Ronald Reagan Highway will be resurfaced.
ODOT’s proposal also calls for the construction of a noise wall north of the Kennedy Avenue entrance ramp. However, that detail has not yet been finalized.