|Residents along the closed portion of Route 8 in Fort Thomas are waiting for news on the future of their road. |
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by Robin Gee
Earlier this month, residents on the closed section of Old Route 8 in Fort Thomas noticed some activity. There were state vehicles putting down some blacktop and appeared to be shoring up sections of the road.
A portion of the road, a stretch between Tower Hill Road and River Road, has been closed for two-and-a-half years, said Jenny Imbus. She and her neighbors had heard nothing from state officials about the project, so she went out to investigate.
"I found out that the state was planning on doing a tree trimming lesson on road edging. They thought our road was perfect for this with the lack of traffic and abundance of trees."
A check with Bob Yeager, the chief district engineer in our area for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District Six, confirmed what Imbus had heard.
Since the road has been closed to traffic, it provided a safe spot to do training on heavy equipment, he explained. "We provided safety equipment training, where crews could learn how to use the equipment where there was not heavy traffic. We had to get close to the guard rail, so we used an old coal mix to stabilize it."
The process was not part of any move to fix the road but only to provide a temporary safe spot for some training. The state has done some minimal maintenance on the road since they shut it down, but is waiting to determine what will happen next.
Imbus said she understood, but wished that the state had reached out to the residents and let them know what was going on.
|Orangetheory Fitness, Newport Pavilion.|
City is waiting for funding
Imbus and her neighbors, the two other homeowners on the street, met with city officials earlier this year to discuss ideas and possibilities for the road. The price tag for bringing that section of road back to full use has been estimated at a costly $60 million. Yet, there might be other options such as turning parts of the road into low speed park-like roads or reducing difficult sections into one-lane passing only.
RELATED: KYTC Officials Want to limit traffic on Route 8 in Fort Thomas (Sept. 2018)
Fort Thomas City Administrator Ron Dill said the Route 8 situation is still of high interest and concern for the city. The discussion with homeowners and other stakeholders was a part of a serious exploration by the city, but an engineering design study is needed to figure out what is possible and if the ideas they discussed are feasible.
The city was able to secure some grant funding but more is needed to fund a full engineering study. Officials are looking for alternative funding sources, asking state to reappropriate funds from other programs to be able to do a design study.
Dill, explained, "We don’t want to use taxpayer money for doing engineering for something the city does not own."
State is waiting for the city
Right now, the state owns the roadway. Both state and city officials want to ensure a transfer to the city makes sense, that it is something the city can handle. Yeager said the state is waiting to hear back from the city about what they would do with the roadway should they take it over.
The state wants plans and assurances before beginning the transfer process, as once that begins, Yeager said, the city will have only 60 days to respond.
Meanwhile, stakeholders along the closed route, the three homeowners and one business (Aquaramp Marina), as well as utility companies and others, are waiting.
While Imbus said she understands that with bridges and roads to repair all over the area, the troubled section of Route 8 may take a lower priority, but she has heard nothing. When crews appeared outside her home working on the roadway, it was a surprise to the homeowners.
The wait is hard on property owners
"When we saw them fixing things, we said what in the world is going on now...I suppose where they are doing that was probably a good idea but, it’s just a surprise when they do these things. For example, when they closed the road, nobody told us; we had no idea. One of the neighbors drove out one day to go to work and just saw that our road was closed."
She was aware the state has been waiting on the city and the city was exploring ideas and doing studies, but for the three homeowners, she feels time is running out.
"My nextdoor neighbor, his back yard is just falling away. The creek comes down, of course, and in the last few years, with the amount of rain we’ve gotten, he’s lost almost his entire back yard. It’s getting really serious, and he needs to build a wall. But, we’re talking $20,000 to $40,000 for that. And there's other maintenance...The question for us is do I build it or don’t I?...Do I want to put even a few thousand into something that’s going to be torn down?"
It would have been nice to get some notice from the state when they decided to shore things up for their training, she said. Right now, she and her neighbors feel they are in the dark.
"We know that even if they decide to do something, it’ll be a few years before its finished and things could get back to normal — but it’s the not knowing that’s driving everyone crazy," she said.