Miami Group and allies for a better Brent Spence Bridge project come together

Thanks to the Educational Programs Committee, the Brent Spence Bridge working group was able to bring together a panel of experts to discuss a better vision for the $3.6 billion project. The July program featured Bridge Forward’s Vice President Gina Brock and Josh Junker, who assists with their communications efforts, as well as Matt Butler, President of the Devou Good Foundation.

Gina and Matt illustrated how changes in the bridge design could help reconnect Downtown Cincinnati with Queensgate and the West End, which were decimated by the construction of I-75. All participants strongly supported transportation planning that provides multiple options that make communities more walkable and safer for cyclists. They also discussed the Design Build concept that will allow for modifications as the progress unfolds over the 8-mile corridor in Ohio and Northern Kentucky. Josh Junker provided an historical perspective of how neighborhoods, including many African American communities, were decimated by the I-75 construction.

Sierra working group chair Chris Curran reviewed data on traffic-related air pollution, highway stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflows to show why it will be important to increase transit options and to demonstrate the importance of tackling the ongoing issues in the Metropolitan Sewer District at the same time bridge construction is underway. Our map identifies the areas where combined sewer overflows overlap with proposed highway work.

The area to the left (green arrows) will be areas of intensive reconstruction for the Brent Spence Bridge project, permitting opportunities for major improvement in stormwater management infrastructure. The blue box to the right shows what is possible based on prior redevelopment in Downtown Cincinnati. The blue arrows represent all stormwater from Fort Washington Way, the stadiums, and the Smale Riverfront Park draining to the Ohio and not combining with sanitary sewers.

Sierra Club staff member Nathan Alley then explained the federal NEPA process and how citizens and organizations can have an input on the process. We are waiting for a supplemental environmental assessment to be released. A Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) was released in 2012, but the new scope of the project requires a new assessment. We will carefully review the new assessment to determine how it addresses what will be multiple adverse impacts on air and water quality.

The working group’s efforts continued with a meeting at MSD with Marilyn Wall and Chris Curran where we learned about their efforts to work with the Ohio Department of Transportation to address both stormwater runoff from the highway and reducing the number of combined sewer overflows. The MSD plan, like the Sierra Club plan, is likely to save considerable money compared with the current ODOT plan.

An important public comment period will be coming up soon. Although it was originally schedule for July to August, we now expect it might occur later this fall. 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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