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Four Major Infrastructure Projects Tabbed For Action

Mark Heyne
Fort Washington Way was built to be covered. The idea is to create more space for development and tie Downtown and the Banks together.

Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune has identified four infrastructure priorities. This comes after a public hearing last week on the county's big box projects. Portune says decisions need to be made in the next 60 days on expanding the Sharonville Convention Center, funding a new Western Hills Viaduct, covering Fort Washington Way, and possibly building a soccer stadium for FC Cincinnati.

"What's really driving the timeline on that is the timetable Major League Soccer intends to announce who will be awarded expansion franchises. Facilities play a role in that decision," he says.

FC Cincinnati is one of 12 teams that have applied for MLS' expansion. The league is expected to choose two before the end of 2017, and two more in future years.

Portune says there is enough public interest that commissioners need to make a decision by mid-November on whether or not to help build a stadium.

Time is also running out to apply for federal funds for another project - Ft. Washington Way. Federal funds could help pay for decks over the roadway. Applications for the federal grant are due October 16. The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) federal grants could provide up to $25-million total for the project. Each deck is estimated to cost that much.

"We have to come up with local match money. I think that we may be able to look at parking revenues or other enterprise funds since this is all connected to completion of the Banks vision as well," Portune says.

He says commissioners could make a decision soon on expanding the Sharonville Convention Center. He says the board has the option to start collecting funds for the Western Hills Viaduct through a $5 auto license fee.

Possible Changes to Levy Schedule

The Cincinnati Zoo levy is up for renewal next year. Right now, Hamilton County commissioners are looking at putting it on the ballot next May instead of November. Commissioners are also considering changing the levy renewal schedule. Levies could be spread out, and go before voters long before they expire.

Tax Levy Review Committee chair Gwen McFarlin says "if there is a way that we could spread them out so the community isn't overwhelmed by all these levies, as well as other communities having their own levies. The last thing we want to do is have our constituents feeling so overwhelmed that automatically they're going to say no."

There are three levies on the ballot this November; Indigent care, senior services, and mental health.

Next year, the zoo levy could be joined by developmental disability services, and family services.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.