CINCINNATI — Cincinnati has been looking at what it would take to replace the 88-year-old Western Hills Viaduct for nearly a decade. The city's transportation department revealed the latest renderings of what that replacement could look like on Thursday night.
The viaduct, connecting Queensgate and CUF with South Fairmount, has been deteriorating for some time, as concrete chunks have occasionally fallen from its upper deck onto cars driving across the lower deck.
To avoid disrupting traffic, a single-deck viaduct replacement could be built 50 feet south of the existing bridge, based on the proposal shared at a city Department of Transportation and Engineering (DOTE) meeting Thursday.
The proposed Viaduct replacement would be built 50 feet south of the existing bridge to keep traffic from being disrupted. There would be a multi-use path on the south side and sidewalk on the north side. pic.twitter.com/FqriBylBg0— Kristen Swilley (@KristenSwilley) December 3, 2020
“The Viaduct now carries 55,000 vehicles a day," said project manager Bill Shefcik. "Diverting that traffic to other routes currently in place ... we don’t think is feasible or practical.”
Along with four travel lanes in each directions, the new structure would feature a multi-use path on the south side and sidewalk on the north side.
The entire project will cost $335 million, with the city and Hamilton County committing a combined $66 million toward the project and federal and state grants bringing in another $59 million. Both the city and county are confident they can secure enough funding for the bridge.
Construction is still slated to start in 2022 and is set to open for traffic in 2028. Five nonresidential properties are in the direct path of the new bridge, and those will be acquired by the city. The projected lifespan of a new viaduct bridge tops out at 125 years.
Hamilton County engineer Eric Beck said the viaduct is among the 27 bridges in city limits that Cincinnati maintains and inspects.
“It is the largest project my office has undertaken, both in complexity and cost,” Beck said.
The city began studying what it would take to build a new bridge in 2010, and Ohio's Department of Transportation has designated its condition as "poor" by state bridge safety guidelines.
"It’s at the end of it’s useful life, and it needs to be replaced,” Shefcik said.
DOTE is planning to put out a bid for a general contractor next year to begin initial site preparation.