What would a new stadium mean for traffic, parking in developing northern Oakley?

CINCINNATI -- If Hamilton County commissioners cannot convince Major League Soccer and FC Cincinnati to allow the club to play their home games at Paul Brown Stadium, a new stadium could be headed to Oakley.

That could mean more than 20,000 fans streaming into the already bustling East Side neighborhood with each home game resulting in a significant bump in traffic.

Mike Stuart is the director of people and social strategy at MadTree Brewing. Earlier this year, the brewery opened a new location on Madison Road. He said the neighborhood has handled the traffic increase that's come with growth so far.

"Overall, I think Oakley Station was planned pretty well to deal with the traffic," Stuart told WCPO. "There are some small spurts of congestion where you have people coming in and out of that area, but otherwise normal traffic flow throughout the area, it’s fine."

A new stadium wouldn't be the first major development to hit Oakley in recent years. The massive, still-in-progress Oakley Station development brought the country's second-largest Kroger store, as well as Cinemark, Meijer, Target and a host of restaurant chains. It also brought hundreds of new residential units, all in walking distance to the new businesses.

In fact, one of the potential locations for a new stadium sits unused, within the borders of a major development plan adopted more than 15 years ago.

In 2011, the city embarked on the Kennedy Connector Project, which was a road extension plan meant to improve access to and from Interstate 71 for businesses and patrons using Duck Creek Road and the Ridge Avenue corridor.

The road extension was a part of the larger, Oakley North Urban Renewal Plan, adopted by City Council in 2001, to bring economic development to the northern half of the neighborhood and decrease congestion in the area. It also brought new sidewalks, bike lanes, traffic signals and utility infrastructure.

In the renewal plan, traffic considerations were a major factor, with one of its goals reading: "Improve circulation from major development sites to existing vehicular network."

Since then, the Oakley Station development has resulted in multiple new roads providing access to the new businesses.

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority also has initiated plans to build a new transit center next to Oakley Station. 

"That's a wide variety of types of bus riders this will serve," Metro spokesperson Brandy Jones said.

But some have expressed concern over traffic in the area. In a Q&A with FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding, the Oakley Community Council described the traffic situation around Crossroads Church -- which sits at the intersection of Madison Road and Vandercar Way -- as a "disaster" around church service times.

Berding responded by promising an independent parking and traffic study, done in conjunction with the city "to ensure that our game experience is only improved from current status in Clifton."

"Part of that plan will result in an event plan, where the team is responsible for working with the city to provide officers who manage the traffic lights to ensure people attending our games, living in the neighborhood or passing through can all do so cohesively," he said.

As far as how a new stadium would really impact the neighborhood, transportation officials say it's still too soon to tell.

"At this point, it is premature to speculate on traffic or parking impacts when the stadium financing plan hasn’t been fully finalized," said Michael Moore, Cincinnati's director of transportation and engineering, via email.

Moore said if MLS awards FC Cincinnati a spot and a stadium comes to Oakley, it would require strong collaboration between the city and the neighborhood's residents and business owners.

"We anticipate this work will require a high degree of community engagement and collaboration on the issues of physical infrastructure and design, access for all travel modes, and planning for event traffic management and operations," he said.

As far as parking goes, Stuart admits that's always an issue.

"You can never have too much parking," he said. "So it’s something we’re constantly looking at and trying to find solutions to, but at this time we don’t really have any strong concerns about what might happen."

MadTree's new location leases a public parking lot -- owned by the city -- to provide dozens of parking spaces to its patrons and visitors to the neighborhood.

Would FC Cincinnati home matches down the street take away from MadTree's ability to provide parking for their customers? Stuart's not worried.

"It’s going to get filled up anyway by patrons coming in to the taproom before or after the games," he said, also pointing out that there are a number of parking lots elsewhere throughout the neighborhood.

This is a benefit of what Stuart called the neighborhood's "strong" walkability, allowing fans to park a bit farther away from the stadium and walk the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, Stuart sees a new stadium as something that will help the community -- businesses and residents alike -- and remains confident the neighborhood can handle the traffic.

"It’s not going to be Kenwood Mall around Christmas time," he said, "where you’re just in gridlock for half an hour trying to go two blocks."

Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Todd Portune said during a news conference Wednesday that no public money would go toward infrastructure improvements for a new stadium -- with the exception of possibly funding a new parking garage in the area -- so the question of how to pay for the needed improvements remains unanswered.

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley is set to unveil his plan for a new stadium Friday.

Pat LaFleur reports on transportation and mobility for WCPO. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or via email at pat.lafleur@wcpo.com.

Lisa Smith reports for 9 On Your Side's Good Morning Tri-State.

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