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Western Hills Viaduct Replacement Nears Full Funding With $205M SORTA Grant

western hills viaduct
City of Cincinnati
Rendering of the proposed design for a new Western Hills Viaduct. The plan includes a protected path for bikers and pedestrians.

The Western Hills Viaduct replacement is near full funding thanks to a $205 million grant from the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority. The project will get $8.2 million a year for the next 25 years.

"The money is there," said Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley. "The only thing stopping us now is the relocation of the substation that Duke Energy owns, and some negotiations with the railroads."

The grant is funded by a Hamilton County sales tax levy for transit that voters passed last year. Most of the revenue from that levy funds Metro bus service, but 25% a year will be awarded to infrastructure improvement in the Metro service area.

In total, SORTA is set to fund 29 projects in 22 municipalities this fiscal year. Eligible projects include repaving, road widening, bridge, sidewalk and crosswalk improvements. The SORTA board will vote next week to approve recommendations from a committee.

Local officials praised years of bipartisan effort at the city, county and state level to fund the project.

"This is huge coming from the West Side," said Hamilton County Commission Vice President Alicia Reece.

Reece thanked voters who supported the levy in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The voters had to come out, risk their lives to vote to get this done, because they know that this was important."

State Rep. Bill Seitz called himself a "proud infrastructure Republican." He worked on the state legislature approvals for some of the early viaduct funding sources, as well as the transit levy.

"The good news today is it looks like the Western Hills Viaduct might get constructed and reconstructed before they ever figure out the Brent Spence Bridge," Seitz joked.

County and city officials have been trying to fund a viaduct replacement for years, but have so far fallen far short of the $335 million price tag. The SORTA grant brings the project up to $330 million, with other federal and state grant application spending.

The replacement will be built next to the current viaduct, which will remain open. The new viaduct is projected to be complete in 2028.

See a full list of proposed projects for SORTA grants below.

Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.