Fighting back for a better Brent Spence Bridge project

Anyone who has driven over the Brent Spence Bridge knows something needs to be done to improve safety and the flow of goods and people over the Ohio River. However, the Sierra Club Miami Group and other advocates have serious concerns about the current design and the original Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the current bridge replacement plans.

To support our allies fighting for a better bridge design with a smaller footprint and lower environmental impact, we formed a working group in January and I can assure we have been WORKING! We sent letters to the Cincinnati City Council and the Hamilton County Commissioners encouraging them to seek “cooperating agency status” on the project. This would provide much greater influence over the final design. In that letter, we identified the following areas of concern:

  • Stormwater runoff from the Brent Spence Bridge Project into the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) combined sewers.
  • Stormwater pollutants from the expanded highway including heavy metals and road salt.
  • The negative impact of expanded highway lanes and higher traffic loads.
  • Reduced local air quality, especially air toxics which are highest near the interstate and the adjacent environmental justice communities.
  • The lack of transportation options for environmental justice communities and insufficient planning to accommodate public transit, including rail, bus lanes and bus rapid transit.

On May 9, volunteers Bob Park, Marie Kocoshis and Miami Group Chair Sally Dannemiller testified before the Cincinnati Climate, Environment & Infrastructure committee as it considered multiple resolutions related to the bridge plans. “Our sanitary sewer system was designed to allow stormwater to overwhelm it, to overflow into streams, public spaces , backyards and basement back-ups,” said Bob Park, who recommended a high capacity storm sewer project be incorporated into the bridge planning. “Integrating sewer infrastructure into the bridge reconstruction of the lower I-75 corridor would permit huge savings. Furthermore, it would reduce stormwater flow through the sanitary treatment plants and lower operating costs. It’s a win-win.”

All resolutions were adopted by the committee and the full City Council, but stopped short of our request by only asking for “participating agency” status which has less influence. In contrast, Hamilton County Commissioners have been pushing hard for the higher-level cooperating agency status.

On May 18, Chris Curran and Marilyn Wall spoke before the Commission, thanking them for their efforts and encouraging them to do more to solve the sewer issues as well as the “spaghetti problem” of multiple on/off ramps that threaten to further disconnect Downtown from the West End, Queensgate and other neighborhoods historically cut off by major highway projects. We are also concerned about the extremely short timeline between the completion of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and the start of construction.

This summer will bring an important public comment period, so our work continues and your help is needed. Please contact working group chair Chris Curran for more information or to volunteer ([email protected]). The group meets every other Monday at 5 PM in Zoom.

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