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$6 billion for a highway bypass? Not everyone in the Tri-State thinks it's a good idea

Posted at 11:48 PM, Oct 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-24 23:48:05-04

LEBANON, Ohio — A project known as the Cincinnati Eastern Bypass could transform traffic in the Tri-State and take pressure off the Brent Spence Bridge. New estimates show it would cost somewhere in the range of $6 billion.

The new highway would give drivers an updated traffic pattern to cross the Ohio River from Northern Kentucky, travel around Cincinnati and continue across I-71 South of Lebanon to I-75 in Franklin.

Neighbors in the area of Lebanon where the most recent map shows the bypass going through said they're torn on the idea.

"I mean, it could bring more business to the town, add more prosperity, bring more people, but you, know, it's both sides," Marcy Robinett said.

The bypass would help alleviate traffic congestion from other area highways and take part of the load off the Brent Spence Bridge.

"We expect it would radically change traffic patterns," Warren County Engineer Neil Tunison said.

He's not sure that would be for the better. According to Tunison, many of the area's traffic flow problems involve east and west traffic, not north and south.

"If it doesn't address our issues, I would rather see the money go toward the Brent Spence Bridge," he said. "I think that doing anything, building a highway like this in less than 20 years is overly optimistic."

In a Tuesday speech, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin said a bypass would help bring businesses to the area. He floated the idea of a gas tax to help fund the project and serve as a dedicated revenue stream.

"For us to be smart, we need to build a bypass," Bevin said. "They'll grow wherever we build it. That's a straight-up fact."

Tunison called for caution and pointed out a series of potential roadblocks: That the bypass would have trouble crossing significant waterways, that the the overall project would stretch on for years and that construction would run through already-owned property. The owners of that property might not welcome it.

"All these type of projects have unintended consequences, and this would not be an exception," Tunison said. "When you build bypasses, they tend to have a life of their own."

Advocates for the project are working on a state bill that would establish other ways to pay for the bypass such as tolls or private partnerships.