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Survey puts 83-year-old Western Hills Viaduct Bridge on bad list

CINCINNATI (Joe Webb) -- One of the city's oldest and busiest bridges is wearing out and drivers are concerned there's no money to replace it.

A recently released report says the Western Hills Viaduct is the tenth-busiest, structurally deficient bridge in all of Ohio.  Can it be fixed?  What Local 12's Joe Webb found is planners, engineers, and neighborhood activists were way ahead of this survey by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.  They've been working on a solution for awhile.  They're still years away from getting a project underway.  And no surprise the big hold up is money.

If you're one of the 55,000 cars that go across the Western Hills Viaduct each day, you see the effects of 83 years of time, traffic and weather.  The roadside is littered with what used to be roadway.  Some skin has come off the old bones.  Steve Breunig sees it every day on his way to and from work.

When asked if Breunig felt safe he said, "Nah.  You see all the cement where it's come apart and stuff.  Nah.  They keep putting band-aids on it.  They're not fixin' it."

Despite the decay, city traffic engineers say the Western Hills Viaduct is safe but admittedly needs to be replaced.  A $240-million double deck span just south of the existing viaduct is the preferred option.  But only $4-million for right-of-way purchase is secured.  West side activist Pete Witte is on it and has been for a few years.

He tells Local 12, "We want to continue to keep building the groundswell for west side communities of people that support A. the reconstruction of the viaduct and B. a plan for a new bridge that involves future public transit options.  Whatever that might be."

Witte will lobby city council's transportation committee in late May.  He says the city needs to seriously start looking for the money, now.  He calls the viaduct the number one gateway from the west side to uptown, downtown and I-75.

He continues, "With the volume of traffic on it, it's a critical corridor for west siders.  Not just city west siders but Green Township and suburban west siders, too."

With 55,000 cars a day, Witte says the Western Hills Viaduct carries more than twice the traffic of the Sixth Street, Eighth Street, and Hopple Street viaducts.  Much more than the design called for in 1931.  The city Transportation Department says building a new viaduct is the best option because they can keep the old one open during most of the construction.  A complete rehab of the existing viaduct could save some money but would close the bridge for nearly three years.

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