|The future of Route 8 in Fort Thomas is still uncertain, but the city's Comprehensive Plan is helping to inform the conversation.|
by Robin Gee, city council beat editor
Members of the City of Fort Thomas Public Works Committee heard a report last week from City Administrator Ron Dill on the status of Kentucky Route 8 in Fort Thomas. Due to mud slides and dangerous conditions, the stretch of road between River Road and Tower Hill was closed by the state transportation department in February 2019 until further notice.
County officials would have 60 days after the road is offered to them, but have expressed no interest in the roadway. If the county were to decline an offer, the next step will be to offer it to the city. In turn if the city declines, the roadway could be offered to property owners who would be responsible for maintaining it if they want to use it for access to their properties.
The worst-case scenario, Dill said, would be a shut down of the road completely, letting it return to a natural state.
Many have a stake in that stretch of roadway
Although it is clear Route 8 has major issues with mudslides caused by drainage problems and can no longer support the speed and traffic of a main state highway, many people and entities have a stake in what happens there.
The Fort Thomas stretch includes three private homes and a business, Aquaramp that is widely used by many Campbell County residents. In addition, several utilities that serve the entire region have equipment and facilities there. Duke Energy maintains a transmission line along Route 8, the Northern Kentucky Water District has two pumping stations there, and the Cincinnati Waterworks has an intake station there that provides water treatment for 80 percent of their service area. The railroad also maintains track along Route 8.
Beyond Fort Thomas, the road runs through Dayton, Silver Grove and other river cities, as well as unincorporated Campbell County property.
Stakeholders from all these entities have been meeting to discuss the fate of the route and to explore options. For Fort Thomas, Dill said, he wanted to go back and look at the city’s comprehensive plan and how that might present possible solutions or at least ideas about what the city would like to see happen along the riverfront.
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Having the conversation: What's next for Route 8?
While Route 8 will no longer be a highway, he said, it could become something more slow-paced and accessible to a different types of traffic.
"We could have something where you could still go in both directions and go through, but it doesn’t have to be at 35 miles per hour. Perhaps it does become more like a park road and fit the concept of what we’ve been advocating as more of a park setting. Could it be more multi-level? In the areas where it’s really difficult, could it be down to one lane with passing areas?" he asked.
This type of thinking led to other questions on the committee, he said. First off, can the drainage issue be fixed? Where might funding for that come from? What else could we do, and how could we fund it?
Committee members have decided to dig deeper and come up with a plan. The next step, he said, would be to seek funding to help study the viability of ideas in the plan and to develop it further.
Funding is a key issue, of course. The state is unable and unwilling to fund a reconstructed roadway, but some money could be available to support a viable alternative. Other state funds are available for specific projects, Dill said, and there are a number of federal grants and funding resources that might be available for parts or features of a project, such as a bike path or street restoration project.
Dill said the committee is still exploring, but he said returning to the vision outlined in the city’s Comprehensive Plan will help inform plans as they move forward. Once a plan takes shape, he will bring the ideas to council and the community.