CINCINNATI — Local Republicans and Democrats are teaming up, hoping the time is right to get funding to replace the crumbling Western Hills Viaduct.
Two Republicans - Rep. Steve Chabot and County Engineer Ted Hubbard - and two Democrats - County Commissioner Todd Portune and Cincinnati City Councilmember P.G. Sittenfeld - have formed the Western Hills Viaduct Coalition, according to a statement from Chabot's office Wednesday. Calling the viaduct the top infrastructure priority for the region, the group says it sees new opportunities to pursue state and federal funding following the election of new Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and a Democratic majority in the U.S. House.
"Our government is divided more than ever," said Brian Griffith, Chabot's director of communications. "If you want something, you've got to sell it. You've got to bring as many people together and push it through."
The city, county and state have committed almost $100 milllion, but that's not nearly enough to cover the estimated $310 million cost of replacing the 86-year-old viaduct, considered "structurally sound" but obsolete. The viaduct connects Downtown and Cincinnati's West Side neighborhoods.
So far the federal government has turned a deaf ear to funding requests. Citing President Donald Trump’s focus on infrastructure projects, the group says it will also seek a bipartisan federal infrastructure bill.
The coalition released this statement, in part:
"We owe it to the community to place politics aside and come together to restore the gateway to the West Side. That’s exactly our goal in forming this coalition. It is incumbent upon us to take advantage of the bipartisan opportunities presented by the new political environment in order to produce results for one of our region’s most important infrastructure priorities.”