Eastern Corridor Alternate LogoIn the ongoing saga of the Eastern Corridor Highway project, one of Cincinnati’s potentially affected local communities, Madisonville, recently affirmed its opposition to the segment (Segment I) of the project that would impact it.  At a community meeting on Thursday, July 18, the Madisonville Community Council voted unanimously to support the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) “No Build” option instead of one of the potential new configurations of the Red Bank Corridor, which is primary thoroughfare through Madisonville, that ODOT has proposed.  One would hope that ODOT will respect the opinion of the community and the Council, as they are the ones that have to live with the project, but only time will tell.

Instead of creating a highway that would likely bring greater congestion and pollution to Madisonville, the community has expressed interest in improving local street connectivity and enhancing the transportation system for all users – a la Complete Streets.  What is more, the traffic flow statistics that were used in the original Tier I Environmental Impact Statement, which predicted that vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) would continue to climb in portions of the Eastern Corridor area (State Route 32), are now obsolete and have actually been proven incorrect – in the last couple of years VMT in the area has fallen, not risen.  Expanding the Red Bank Corridor, and thus traffic through Madisonville, would merely create more “throughput,” but fail to meet the community’s needs; Madisonville and its residents’ quality of life would be one of the sacrificial lambs of the Eastern Corridor.

Madisonville is not the only community that would be impacted by the Eastern Corridor that hasn’t “drunk the kool-aid.”  Newtown, which unlike Madisonville is outside of Cincinnati, also has reservations about the project.  The segment impacting Newtown would realign State Route 32, potentially drawing traffic away from Newtown, hurting local businesses.   There are some positive aspects of the Eastern Corridor project as a whole, including improved multi-use trails and light rail, but these components need to be decoupled from the highway portion of the project.

The project’s total cost is a whopping $1.4 billion, with vast majority of that being allocated to the automobile-related components of the project.  Based on ODOT’s projections of VMT reductions, which are somewhat dubious in their own right, the cost per annual vehicle-mile reduced will be $28; quite a steep cost.  Undoubtedly, the same result could be achieved for far less if the road expansion aspects of the project were removed and more was invested in active transportation within the corridor.

This Madisonville vote was a positive step for communities in the path of the Eastern Corridor, but this energy will need to be sustained within the affected communities.  Ultimately, it could fall on Cincinnati to deny funding for its portion of the project costs if the project is going to be halted.  If you are in the Cincinnati area and interested in being involved in this effort, please email Sierra Club’s Ohio Transportation Chair, Chris Curran — currancp@gmail.com.

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Click here to see the Cincinnati Enquirer’s recent editorial opposing the Eastern Corridor project