Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Cincinnati

Ohio DOT Cedes Ground in Its Sneaky Highway Expansion Campaign

3:35 PM EDT on June 8, 2015

The relocation of State Route 32 would have set the stage for an interstate to the sea. Image: ##http://www.urbancincy.com/2011/01/809m-identified-for-long-planned-i-74-extension-through-hamilton-county/##Urban Cincy##
The relocation of State Route 32 would have set the stage for sprawling development in Cincinnati's eastern suburbs. Image: Urban Cincy
The relocation of State Route 32 would have set the stage for an interstate to the sea. Image: ##http://www.urbancincy.com/2011/01/809m-identified-for-long-planned-i-74-extension-through-hamilton-county/##Urban Cincy##

Opponents of a $1.4 billion highway expansion project outside Cincinnati have won some important concessions from Ohio DOT, but the agency's stealth campaign to build an "interstate to the sea" isn't over yet.

Last week, ODOT announced that it will no longer pursue the relocation of State Route 32 through communities on the eastern edge of Cincinnati. "We’re not going to spend any more time or money on that current aspect of the project," ODOT spokesman Brian Cunningham said at a meeting last Thursday.

But ODOT is still looking to widen parts of SR 32, add turn lanes, and install new ramps -- meaning it hasn't abandoned the decades-old plan to create a highway from Cincinnati all the way to the South Carolina coast.

"What they did is that they broke down the upgrading of SR 32 to interstate specs into several small projects that seem innocuous on their own," said Jake Mecklenborg of UrbanCincy. "While cancellation of the highway inside the I-275 loop might prevent 1990s-type suburban development of rural Clermont County, the decades-old effort to connect I-74 in Cincinnati with I-74 in North Carolina is still very much alive."

Mecklenborg noted that ODOT is currently spending more than $400 million to build an "interstate-spec" bypass around the tiny town of Portsmouth, Ohio, about 100 miles east of Cincinnati. And construction of the King Coal Highway (a future segment of I-74) continues in the mountains of West Virginia. Even without routing I-74 directly through Cincinnati, parts of the I-275 loop could be co-signed as I-74 should SR 32 eventually be fully grade-separated, Mecklenborg said.

Still, the agency's decision not to relocate SR 32 is a win for the Ohioans who fought to prevent sprawl, preserve small towns, and avert the destruction of a Native American archeological site.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

State DOTs Spend Even More Money on Highway Expansions Than We Thought

Advocate knew states would go on a highway widening binge when the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed — but they didn't know it would be quite this bad.

February 22, 2024

Thursday’s Headlines Breathe Freely

If every driver started buying electric vehicles powered by clean energy, it would prevent millions of respiratory illnesses. But the market has slowed down significantly.

February 22, 2024

Understanding the Car-Dominated Past Can Lead to a Better Future

And success will mean nothing less than a better life for all groups and communities.

February 22, 2024

Opinion: How Letting Bikes ‘Talk’ To Cars Can Save Lives

There's a lot of talk about how "vehicle-to-everything" technology can make driving better. What about biking?

February 21, 2024
See all posts