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Replacing Western Hills Viaduct A Priority For Cincinnati Council

The half-mile long viaduct carries more than 55,000 vehicles per day has long been in need of repair.
Tana Weingartner
The half-mile long viaduct carries more than 55,000 vehicles per day has long been in need of repair.

Cincinnati City Council is on record that replacing the Western Hills Viaduct is the top priority if Hamilton County voters approve a sales tax increase in March for the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) and infrastructure repairs.  

Council approved a resolution on the issue Wednesday.  

Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman had introduced it last month.

"So when those resources come to the table, that we're all in lockstep, that we want those resources prioritized or earmarked for the project," Smitherman said.

Voters are being asked to increase the sales tax by eight-tenths of a percent to pay for upgrades to the Metro bus system, and to make repairs and improvement to highways and bridges used by those buses. Metro would use its money to make route improvements to connect more people with jobs in the city and Hamilton County.

Council Member Chris Seelbach supported the viaduct being a priority, and also wants it to include measures to protect pedestrians.

"I just want the people who are planning the design of the project to take pedestrian safety into account and ensure that we do have a barrier between the sidewalk and the roadway in any design elements that we put forth," Seelbach said.

City and Hamilton County officials are working to secure the $330 million needed to replace the viaduct. They've been applying for state and federal grants. The city and county have also jointly pledged $66 million in local funding for the plan.

Meanwhile, the full city council voted Wednesday to ask Hamilton County's auditor to set a property tax millage rate that collects about $29 million of revenue for the city's general fund budget.

Since 2000, council has opted for the "rollback" policy of setting a millage rate to keep property tax collections at around $29 million.

City administrators once again this year unsuccessfully asked council to increase the tax rate to the 6.1 mills allowed in the city charter. In time, that would generate about $5 million of additional money for the general fund, which faces a $12 million deficit for the fiscal year starting July 1.

City Council is also asking administrators for a report on changing the name of McMicken Avenue near the University of Cincinnati campus.

The proposal follows UC's decision last month to remove Charles McMicken's name from the College of Arts and Sciences. McMicken was a business man in the early 1800s who donated money for the founding of what would become UC with the caveat that the school educate "white boys and girls." Research shows McMicken enslaved and sold African Americans and derived part of this wealth from the institution of slavery.

City Council wants to know how much it would cost to change the name of the street, not only for the city but also residents who live on the street.  It also wants administrators to gather public input on the possible name change.

WVXU's Tana Weingartner contributed to the report.

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Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.