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Western Hills Viaduct Is Safe Even With 'Poor' Rating

Tana Weingartner

Cincinnati's latest infrastructure report lists the Western Hills Viaduct in poor condition, raising concerns about whether the bridge is safe to drive on.
City transportation officials say yes, but it does show signs of deterioration. It received a four out of nine rating.

"It means the bridge has advanced deterioration of the primary structural members," said Bill Shefcik, the city's supervising structural engineer. "The primary structural members are not as strong as what they used to be when the bridge was first built. That doesn't mean the bridge is unsafe; it doesn't mean the bridge needs to be closed."

Shefcik said the viaduct is inspected "hands on" twice a year, and the city prevents oversize loads from crossing the bridge.

"The intent is to keep the bridge safe and open until we can get a replacement structure in place," Shefcik said. "Right now, we have this project out for five to 10 years just depending on how funding comes in."

Council Member Greg Landsman called on state and federal leaders to step up with funding for the replacement project.

"You can drive over it today, but if you want to continue to drive over it, your state and federal leaders are going to have to get their butts in gear and put some money against this so we can get a new bridge," Landsman said.

City and Hamilton County officials are working to secure the $330 million needed to replace the viaduct. They've been applying for state and federal grants. The city and county have also jointly pledged $66 million in local funding for the plan.

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.