Cincinnati City Council Poised to Vote Again on Liberty Street

Council will likely vote yet again on the push to reduce Liberty Street from seven to five lanes.

Liberty Street in the 1950s - CITY OF CINCINNATI
City of Cincinnati
Liberty Street in the 1950s

Cincinnati City Council is poised to consider a motion directing City Manager Patrick Duhaney to move forward with a long-stalled plan that would reduce Liberty Street to five lanes in Over-the-Rhine. 

The so-called "road diet," slimming Liberty from seven lanes to five, has been a six-year planning and community engagement effort by supporters in Over-the-Rhine.

But there are also critics, including Mayor John Cranley, Chatfield College and the nearby Pendleton Neighborhood Council.

Council's Budget and Finance Committee yesterday approved the motion asking the city to move forward with the road diet and rejected legislation by the mayor that would have appropriated needed funds for the project to other efforts in Pendleton.

Council member Chris Seelbach says the original Liberty Street plan will stitch together northern and southern Over-the-Rhine, which were separated by road widening in the 1950s.

Cranley supports an alternative that keeps Liberty at seven lanes but adds bump-outs at high-traffic intersections. Cranley says that option preserves parking and doesn't involve the relocation of a water main that could cost $800,000. Cranley and Chatfield representatives say the road diet will cost the neighborhood badly-needed on-street parking, something Chatfield College President John Tafaro says that the college's predominantly low-income students rely on when they commute to school. 

Meanwhile, Pendleton Community Council says that it was never engaged in planning efforts to narrow the road, the eastern section of which comprises the neighborhood's northern border. Pendleton has for years been looking for help from the city for its own road-calming efforts on 13th Street, community council president Tabatha Anderson told the council committee yesterday.

The original $3.4 million plan, drawn up after six years of public input meetings and design sessions and supported by neighborhood groups, including the Over-the-Rhine and Mount Auburn Community Councils, would reduce Liberty Street as it runs between north and south Over-the-Rhine from seven lanes to five lanes and reclaim about 20 feet of land on the street’s south side that proponents say could be used for development.

On-street parking in the remaining curb lanes would be restricted between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. under one version of the plan, though Seelbach also noted yesterday in council committee that there are several options for parking, including one potential version that preserves all 77 parking spots full-time and reduces Liberty to two lanes. 

Council approved funding for the project last October, though Cranley promptly vetoed it. Six members of council then overturned that veto. 

Last October's ordinance pays for the water main relocation via money from an OTR tax increment financing district.

Council's Budget and Finance Committee yesterday was less impressed with an ordinance by Cranley that would take $2.7 million from that TIF and place it in an account for road-calming efforts in Pendleton. That move caused Liberty Street supporters to cry foul.

"I don't dispute the aims of this ordinance, but the timing seems conspicuously divisive," council member P.G. Sittenfeld said yesterday as Budget and Finance passed the motion 4-1.

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