Efforts to replace the crumbling Western Hills Viaduct are a little closer to reality after Hamilton County scored a $5 million grant toward a new structure spanning the Mill Creek Valley.
The Hamilton County Engineer’s office applied for the funding under the Local Bridge Replacement program, which is administered by the County Engineers Association of Ohio. The money is the first funding that will go to actual construction of the bridge and will be used to build the ramps to a new viaduct. Local governments must supply a $1.25 million match for the funding.
The money comes as Cincinnati and Hamilton County struggle to come up with the funding necessary for the estimated $335 million project. The more than half-mile-long bridge opened in 1932 and engineers say it is now nearing the end of its lifespan. Experts say it is still safe, though last year the lower deck of the bridge was shut down temporarily after debris fell on a car from its upper span.
So far, the city has drawn up a plan to issue debt worth $33 million toward a local match for a replacement bridge and the Hamilton County Commission approved another $33 million raised through a $5 automobile license plate fee, but federal dollars will likely be necessary to complete the project. The federal government has awarded $18 million for right-of-way acquisition and planning, though earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation rejected an application by the city and county for an extra $15 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants.
All told, the city and county have applied for 13 grants to fund the project. It has won three of those grants, including the Local Bridge Replacement funding. Two grant requests totaling $11.6 million are still pending with the Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana Regional Council of Governments and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
At the current rate, engineers expect the new viaduct to be finished by 2027.