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Cincinnati Council, mayor advocate for a better-designed Brent Spence Bridge corridor

brent spence bridge
Al Behrman

A Cincinnati City Council committee voted unanimously Tuesday to pass a resolution urging state officials to explore "all options to reclaim additional land" in the design for a companion bridge to the Brent Spence.

The resolution will be up for a final council vote Wednesday; the five members of the Climate, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee make up a majority of the nine-member council, so the resolution is likely to pass.

"Our due diligence is to ask questions; that's what we're doing," said Council Member Meeka Owens, chair of the Climate, Environment and Infrastructure Committee.

The resolution includes an attachment with plans put forth by a local group called Bridge Forward, which has been pushing an alternate plan for the corridor. The advocates say it would free up about 30 acres of land in downtown Cincinnati currently occupied by highways. If feasible, the plan would allow the city to reclaim land lost during the construction of I-75 during the 1960s, including the demolition of much of the predominantly Black West End at the time.

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The Bridge Forward effort now includes former mayors John Cranley and Mark Mallory.Cranley is registered as a lobbyist for Greg Fischer, a supporter of Bridge Forward and chairman of the Greater Cincinnati housing developer Fischer Homes.

In a responseto the alternate design last year, the Ohio Department of Transportation called that element of Bridge Forward's proposal "impractical."

"At times it's been suggested that this is a pivot, and that Council is changing its position, which I think is not true," said Council Member Jeff Cramerding. "And we're not taking an adversarial position with ODOT; we're just continuing to work with them and supporting that."

RELATED: Federal government denies Hamilton Co.'s application for a decision-making role on Brent Spence Bridge project

The resolution asks the Ohio Department of Transportation to report back on the "cost, feasibility, and other pertinent considerations of alternative proposals" including Bridge Forward and any other designs "that reclaim a similar magnitude of developable land."

"We want [ODOT] to come back with options," said Council Member Mark Jeffreys. "If there's another plan, awesome."

In a statement last week, ODOT says it has met with Bridge Forward three times this year and will continue to meet with them.

“Cincinnati City Council’s resolution asks the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project Team to continue efforts we've already been engaged in that consider input from the public and city to produce the best plan that meets the project's needs and safety of the public while maintaining or reducing current timelines, budget and construction schedules," the statement says. "We look forward to building on these efforts as the project moves forward."

Council's resolution expresses "support for the Administration's continued advocacy that the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project design explore all options to reclaim additional land throughout the corridor."

RELATED: Brent Spence Bridge corridor project lands $1.6 billion federal grant

Mayor Aftab Pureval joined ODOT for a joint announcement last November about a slightly redesigned corridor, which boosted the amount of reclaimed land from about four to nine and a half.

At the time, Pureval did not seem optimistic that any other changes were possible.

"At this point in the process, it looks like ten acres is the max based on the geometry and the needs of the project," he said at a press conference November 10.

Read the full resolution below:

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.