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Western Hills Viaduct replacement could lead to $5 car registration fee; you can weigh in

Posted at 2:32 PM, Oct 17, 2017

CINCINNATI -- Hamilton County drivers could be asked to pay more when they renew their car registration every year to build a new Western Hills Viaduct.

Before then, county leaders want to hear what they think. In fact, they have to.

The new fee would cost registrants an extra $5 annually. Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune wants to use the money as a local match as the county seeks state and federal grants for the viaduct. Local communities typically must come up with a 20 percent match for any transportation grant dollars.

"I don't really mind it for the simple fact that if it's going to be for the safety and security of us driving across it," Price Hill resident Tyrone Smiley said Tuesday. "You got to pay for it. Somebody has to do it!"

 

Building a new span to replace the 85-year-old viaduct will cost more than $330 million.

Portune, who first unveiled the funding plan, said about half of the fee increase -- that is, between $20-30 million out of roughly $40 million in revenue -- would go toward the viaduct under his proposal.

Hamilton County commissioners have two public hearings planned for next month:

Thursday, Nov. 2
6:30 p.m.
Warsaw Federal Incline Theater
801 Matson Place, Cincinnati

Wednesday, Nov. 8
11:30 a.m.
County Administration Building
138 E Court St., Cincinnati

They're required to hold two hearings before they impose the $5 fee. Under state law, the money can only be used for roads, bridges and viaducts. 

Completed in 1932, the Western Hills Viaduct is a major commuter route for drivers on the West Side of town, carrying 55,000 vehicles a day.

It also has been the subject of strict scrutiny for nearly a decade. This is especially true within the last year, when drivers began noticing cracks along the structure's side. Over the summer, a chunk of concrete fell from the upper deck onto a driver's windshield.

 

While technically "structurally sound," the bridge suffers one of the lowest bridge ratings possible, deeming it necessary not just to upgrade, but to replace.

 

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This story contains prior reporting from WCPO's Pat LaFleur.