OKI Wanna Know: Great American Road Trip Edition
We receive questions every week for our OKI Wanna Know feature. Over the past year, a lot of listeners have asked about various aspects of the local interstate system. We packed all the answers into one story. WVXU's Bill Rinehart has more in this Great American road trip edition of OKI Wanna Know.
Whether you're driving across country for the summer or just across town for the weekend, you may notice something along the roadway that makes you wonder as you wander.
For instance, the two new towers flanking I-75 at the Glendale-Milford interchange.
Question 1: Terry Patrick of Glendale says they seem to serve no purpose. Evendale Mayor Richard Finan says au contraire. He says the towers let people know where Evendale is, and they help create a sense of community.
"If you look around the village, we have a lot of conical towers - (at the) fire department, over on our veterans fire and police memorial - all around. So we have kept with that theme."
Finan says the towers cost about $2.6 million and were built after the rest of the new Glendale-Milford interchange was finished.
That was one of many projects along I-75 through Hamilton County for the last several years.
Question 2: Lawrence Dickerson of West Harrison wants to know the last time there wasn't major construction between Galbraith and the Western Hills Viaduct. ODOT's District 8 spokeswoman Kathleen Fuller says not since the first decade of this century.
"It had been pretty quiet up until about 2009," she says. "And then at that point we did a widespread, complete pavement repair project in Hamilton County." Fuller says that was followed by the first of the major expansion projects, near Mitchell, the Mill Creek Expressway and the Through the Valley projects.
Question 3: Suzanne Leitner of Anderson Township asks why highway signs and maps don't call State Routes 562 and 126 the Norwood Lateral and the Cross County Highway, like many people do. ODOT's Kathleen Fuller says there's a very good reason.
"ODOT doesn't name roadways. We don't give local names to them. We go by the state route or federal route designations. The naming of roadways would be done by city council or board of commissioners," she says.
Names also come from the state legislature. In the case of the Norwood Lateral, it's not clear anyone has ever officially given it that name. The Ronald Reagan Cross County Highway has been given that designation, but Fuller says there's only so much room on a sign, and ODOT has to include the route number.
Sarah Baumgartner of Anderson Township is curious about southbound I-71, through Downtown. She says as you approach the Lytle Tunnel, there's a sign warning that if the lights are flashing, don't drive into the tunnel. Baumgartner asks Question 4: Where are you supposed to go?
Fuller says the flashing lights are an early warning system, to keep vehicles from piling up in the tunnel before police can arrive. "We have ways with our law enforcement, our emergency responders, to try and help get traffic off the interstate. But if you're at the point and those lights start flashing, you have no choice but to stop and wait."
Fuller says the warning lights are connected to smoke, carbon monoxide and fire detectors in the tunnels. They can also be switched on manually.
Question 5: Ben Lohmueller of Reading wants to know why I-71 traffic can't be completely diverted onto I-471, away from the Brent Spence Bridge.
Kathleen Fuller says that's a question for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. "There's a lot of history as to why it developed and how it developed the way it did. It doesn't mean it couldn't be changed to take that designation and change the routing of I-71 across the bridge."
But she says it would be complicated. We'll talk to Kentucky and ODOT for a future episode, because for now, we're out of time.