A highly anticipated plan to redirect portions of KY State Route 9 in Newport will take effect this spring, say representatives of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC).
The project, slated for completion in early 2017, will divert heavy traffic away from Newport's west side, enabling direct access to the riverfront from points south (via the AA Highway) and development of underutilized sites along the Licking River corridor.
State lawmakers approved $29M in funding for the project, which included project design, right-of-way acquisition, utility relocation and construction cost. The KYTC will soon begin reviewing competing bids from area contractors.
The project will begin at Lowell Street in Newport, moving the existing Route 9 approximately two blocks west, and culminating in one of two planned roundabouts at the foot of the Taylor-Southgate Bridge to downtown Cincinnati. (The second roundabout will be located near the foot of Newport's Fourth Street Bridge to Covington.)
"The Route 9 project will have a huge impact on economic development opportunities for this important corridor," says Dan Tobergte, president and CEO of Northern Kentucky Tri-ED. "The enhancements to Route 9 will link future projects such as Ovation and the Licking River Greenway, and will greatly improve access to I-275 and 12th
street in Covington."
Urban redesign in three phases
KYTC Branch Manager Bob Yeager said that the redesigned Newport section of KY9 will resemble a more urban space—with sidewalks, landscaped medians, and bike paths—than its rural southern sections (near Wilder and the I-275 interchange), which were recently widened and reinforced to accommodate increasing interstate traffic.
The project will also involve redesign of some public housing units affected by the change. Newport's City Manager Tom Fromme said, "This project is going to allow us to revamp and reinvent public housing as we know it in [Newport's] west end. I don't see a downside; this project is going to be a big benefit for Newport."
Of the demolition component, Yeager explained that the current plan — which calls for demolition of 73 existing structures — was the least intrusive of three that state officials considered. "In terms of getting from point A to point B with as little upset as possible, this was by far the plan that makes the most sense," he said.
"Currently, the project is broken down into three different construction phases," said Yeager. "The first one will start this year south of Ninth Street. The area north of Fifth Street is scheduled for next year, and finally, the area in between the two will be finished the following year."
KYTC Public Information Officer Nancy Wood said, "Once the southern leg gets going, we will have a better idea of what folks can expect and any safety features they might need to know about."
According to the project's engineers, commuters should not be inconvenienced during construction, thanks to a street-grid layout that allows for one-block detours. Said Yeager, "By doing it this way, it should limit the number of intersections that [the traveling public] have to go through, and [the end result] will feel more like a through-corridor than a residential city street. The amount of time it takes the average traveler to commute should be much shorter."
All project inquiries should be directed to Wood at [email protected]
or (859) 341-2700.
Paving the way for NKY business
"The Route 9 project is something that's been on the drawing board in Newport for well over 25 years," said City Manager Fromme. "Our goal has always been to relieve those neighborhoods in the west end of Route 9 traffic, and to draw new businesses to the Licking River areas."
Fromme's office is already fielding interest from prospective buyers and lessees. He sees the space along the planned roadway — which consists of some vacant buildings, but mostly unused land — as ideal for a large office campus or light manufacturing plant. Both prospects stand to bring a significant number of jobs to the area.
"You're looking at a flat, 20-acre site on a brand new four-lane highway with direct access to [interstates] 275, 471, and 75," said Fromme. "There's been a lot of interest from people wanting to open up new businesses as we speak. There are some exciting opportunities there."
Fromme also believes completion of KY9 will help revive the riverfront Ovation project, another long-awaited development that promises to feature upscale residential units and an entertainment complex at the confluence of the Ohio and Licking Rivers.
"We are very excited to see these transportation enhancements take shape and really transform this corridor," Tobergte said.