Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks, at right, joins Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval for walking tour of West End on May 22, as they looked at planned improvements to connections as part of Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project. Photo provided by ODOT

Connecting communities and enchancing neighborhoods

By Matt Bruning 

Ohio Department of Transportation

Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks and Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval recently conducted a walking tour in neighborhoods along the I-75 corridor for a closer look at how the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project (BSBC) project will improve pedestrian and bicyclist experiences. While the primary focus of the project is to alleviate traffic congestion and improve connectivity across the Ohio River, it also aims to foster connections and revitalize the relationship between downtown Cincinnati and the West End neighborhoods.

During the tour, Marchbanks and Pureval visited key locations, including Linn Street, West Court Street, Ezzard Charles Drive, Winchell Avenue, and West Liberty Street. These areas are poised for transformation into vibrant spaces, with many featuring green space and park areas, dedicated walking paths, bicycle lanes, and more.

ODOT actively partners with the city on the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) Grant improvements at Linn Street and 8th Street, which align with improvements coming as part of the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor (BSBC) Project. Furthermore, plans are underway for the development and replacement of a pedestrian bridge over Winchell Avenue.

Following the tour, Pureval expressed his enthusiasm for the project, acknowledging its potential to enhance safety and stimulate growth in the region. In a tweet, he emphasized the importance of reconnecting communities that have been harmed by past infrastructure decisions. The City of Cincinnati has played an active role in the planning process, with a vision to create an inviting, accessible, and pedestrian-friendly urban environment.

Marchbanks shared a personal connection, saying, “I understand the impact of building an interstate highway through a neighborhood home to thousands of minority families. My childhood home in Dayton was taken by the construction of I-75 in the 1960s. This project will help reconnect the West End to downtown by creating new connections and strengthening existing ones across the interstate.”

He added, “As an avid cyclist myself, I am thrilled to see that we’re focused not just on moving vehicles but moving people with all modes of transportation.”

The project team has successfully reduced the project’s footprint, freeing up nearly 10 acres of contiguous developable land and presenting opportunities for future city development. As the design-build team takes shape, one of their objectives will be to explore feasible ways to expand on this already significant land allocation.

Meets with African American Chamber

As part of an effort to attract a diverse workforce and share opportunities, Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Director Jack Marchbanks, BSBC Project Manager Tom Arnold, and other members of the BSBC leadership team recently met with Eric Kearney, president and CEO of the African-American Chamber of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky and his staff, as well as several chamber members.

“The Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce was honored to host ODOT Director Dr. Jack Marchbanks to discuss the inclusion of DBEs in the Brent Spence Bridge project,” said Kearney. “We greatly appreciate Dr. Marchbanks’s pragmatic and direct approach and his willingness to listen to small business owners. The Brent Spence Bridge project is a transformative opportunity for Ohio businesses to grow and prosper. We certainly look forward to working with ODOT towards those goals.”

The group gathered at the Chamber’s Cincinnati office on May 2 to review the BSBC project plan and discuss ways the Chamber and its members can get involved in the transformative $3.6 billion construction process. Marchbanks and Arnold outlined the project’s goals for Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) involvement and resources available for certification and asked the group’s input and advice on engaging minority-owned businesses and ensuring the project’s goals are not just met but surpassed.

Public input has always been a key pillar in delivering a project that will address current and future transportation needs in the region and beyond. The project team has met with the community advocacy group Bridge Forward on several occasions this year as part of its collaboration with the City of Cincinnati to discuss their ideas and provide feedback. Prior to their most recent meeting, ODOT reached out to Bridge Forward to request a meeting to gain insights on their current revised proposal.

In general, the Bridge Forward proposal advocates for “stacking” the highway on the Ohio side to potentially free up more land for development in the city center. While ODOT is aligned with the idea of keeping the project footprint to a minimum, freeing up land for development, and reducing impacts wherever possible.

The project team committed to the group that it will continue to examine ways to provide more land to the city and share this information with the selected design-build team.

Project needs all hands on deck

The Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Diversity & Inclusion Outreach team has swung into action, working to ensure Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE), small businesses, and individual workers are aware of and can access the once-in-a-generation opportunities this $3.6 billion project offers the region’s workforce.

“This project needs all hands on deck to get to completion,” said Corridor Project Manager Tom Arnold.

“It’s critical that the project workforce accurately reflects our region’s diversity, and that the opportunities this massive investment creates are shared with folks who are interested in learning how they can be a part of this project. We’ve been busy getting the word out so people know how to prepare for upcoming opportunities once we have a contractor on board.”

Over the past four weeks, the team has deployed to three major events targeted to each of these audiences, starting with the Tri-State DBE Meeting on April 26. Presented by CEI DBE Support Services, this virtual event brought together representatives from the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Indiana Department of Transportation in an effort to connect DBEs with prime contractors.

Project needs public feedback

The Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project team welcomes feedback from the public. Recently, many comments and questions have come from local business owners and individuals about potential work and/or career opportunities. This $3.6 billion investment in the region will bring with it a steady stream of opportunity over the next seven years. More information about how to become trained and/or certified to work on the project is available on its website. Once the design-build team is selected, there will be more information about how to reach those hiring businesses or individuals for project work.

To submit a question or comment, visit the project website and click on the “Contact Us” button in the upper right-hand corner. Responses to all public comments can be viewed on the Public Involvement and Comments section of the website. This section features project exhibits, summaries of outreach activities, and summaries of responses to questions posed to the project team during meetings or via email. The document with the summary of responses from all sources is updated monthly.

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