The tight squeeze necessary to merge on to interstates 71 or 75 from 4th Street in Covington is expected to improve with a significant change to access the highway.
The 4th Street entrance ramp will close permanently under a plan approved Thursday at the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) executive board meeting.
In its place, a collector distributor, dubbed a "Texas Turnaround," will be installed, rerouting drivers on a newly constructed ramp from 4th Street toward Pike Street and then on to the interstate.
The change is expected to improve access to I-75 across the Brent Spence Bridge. Currently, drivers accessing the northbound interstate bridge from 4th Street have two lanes at their disposal to merge on to the I-71 split, or must merge to the left quickly in order to proceed on I-75 north.
"What that does is, it just improves safety up on I-75," said City of Covington Public Works Director and Assistant Engineer Rick Davis. "As we all know, there's a lot of issues up there with police and fire having to go up there multiple times a week. This prevents those merging areas."
Davis noted the tightness and narrowness of the lanes as causing safety problems for drivers.
The entrance ramp is used by commuters around downtown Cincinnati and Covington and across Northern Kentucky to access the interstate. "It allows a longer distance," Davis said.
In his explanation, Davis said the 4th Street on-ramp would be closed and drivers would continue on 4th Street to a ramp to Pike Street, while never entering traditional traffic with its stop lights and local commuters. The collector distributor would then flip back around to place drivers on the interstate. "It's a Texas turnaround. It's pretty common in the south and other areas," Davis said.
The change follows the elimination of curb cuts on 4th Street that previously permitted vehicles to access from 4th Street the two gas stations near the interstate. Those gas stations are now only accessible from Philadelphia Street.
"It's a continuation of safety issues," Davis said.
OKI referred questions to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet - District 6 office, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The city, Davis said, is working closely with the state.
There will be no changes to the southbound side of I-71/75 or the 5th Street exit to Covington, Davis said.
According to documents approved at OKI on Thursday, the project is estimated to cost $4.3 million. $860,000 is budgeted to come from the state's coffers while the remainder will be paid for by the federal government.
A timeline was not immediately available.