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MLK interchange at 71 takes step forward

Holly Yurchison

Cincinnati Council will likely vote Wednesday to sell bonds to pay for the city's portion of building a new interchange on I-71 at Martin Luther King Drive.  The plan has been in the works for several years.  

“We’re not just building a road because we need a road there,” Council Member Yvette Simpson said.  “We anticipate lots of development along the corridor.”

The MLK interchange is designed to provide easier access to the Uptown area and places like the University of Cincinnati and several major hospitals.

“The MLK interchange is a big, important project that is going to have a big impact for our entire city,” Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld said.  “Helping unlock enormous job growth for the city and for the region.”

There is some debate about whether the bonds for the project will increase the city's property tax rate.  The city's finance director said the actual tax rate will not increase because of the MLK project.  

“If it weren’t for this vote, property taxes would be going down,” Council Member Chris Seelbach said.  “And as a result of this vote, they will either be going up or other projects will be not on the forefront, this will take the place of other projects.”

Some on Council do not agree with that assessment.
“To say that this vote has anything to do with raising taxes or has some future transaction is absolutely grandstanding,” Council Member Christopher Smitherman said.  “The reality is that the public policy that this Council might make in the future or not make in the future will ultimately impact where property taxes are going.”

For now the property tax rate for the capital or project budget will remain steady because some older city debt is about to be retired.  

Former City Manager Milton Dohoney had planned to use $20 million from the parking lease deal with the Port Authority to fund the local portion of the MLK project.  But that
lease agreement has been placed on old with a new mayor and city council majority.  

Construction on the $106 million dollar MLK interchange could begin in the summer and will take a couple years to complete.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.