New Fort Washington Way 

Ft. Washington Way carries I-71, U.S. 50, and provides access to downtown and the riverfront from I-75 and I-71. It was originally built from 1958-1961, and completely reconstructed between 1998 and 2000. The reconstructed Ft. Washington Way is the newest expressway in the Cincinnati area and is a major part of the city's ambitious riverfront redevelopment scheme.  Click Here for the original Ft. Washington Way article.

This unflattering post card from the late 1980's illustrates the pathetic condition of the riverfront
and how the expressway's width prevented continuity with the central business district. 

Ft. Washington Way Reconstruction 1998-2000
Ft. Washington Way received an "F" safety rating in the early 1990's and was completely reconstructed from 1998 to 2000.  This included the I-71/75 and 6th St. Expressway interchange ramps, the mainline trench, the I-71 Lytle Tunnel interchange, and the 3rd St. Viaduct.  The number of entrance and exit ramps was reduced, and all left-side ramps were eliminated, with the exception of the I-71 southbound exit to 3rd St. through the Lytle Tunnel. The number of through lanes in the mainline trench increased from six to eight, with with emergency shoulders along both the center divider and trench walls.  The remaining late 1950's portion of the 3rd St. Viaduct was demolished and replaced by a wider six lane structure.  Some of the elevated roadway's segment reconstructed in 1977 remains.  3rd St. itself was switched from one-way eastbound to one-way westbound.  The One Lytle Place overpass, built in 1980, was replaced by a short tunnel under the expressway and new bridge over Pete Rose Way. 

A new two-level distributor road, called 2nd St. (the original 2nd St. was changed to Pete Rose Way in 1985, and is located a few hundred feet to the south), was built along the south side of the mainline trench.  Originally planned as an ordinary street elevated on fill, instead 3,740ft. of it were elevated on precast concrete girders spanning approximately 50ft. 

Summer 2002 photo of the transit center under construction.
[Tom Herbort]

The entire width is 84ft. The upper level functions as an expressway distributor, and the lower level is the site of a bus staging facility known as the Riverfront Transit Center.  The subsurface Transit Center currently serves buses but is planned to handle commuter and possibly intercity trains in the future.  The upper level 2nd St. is expected to evenutally carry a light rail transit line.  At $18 million, the transit center was built at a fraction of the cost of a traditional cut-and-cover tunnel. 

The Riverfront Transit Center is located underneath 2nd St.
[Jake Mecklenborg November 2004]

Fort Washington Way's original earth levee was rebuilt as a concrete flood wall.  The levee fill was moved a few hundred feet south, to elevate Theodore Berry Way, a new street along the riverfront. Piles were sunk beneath center median and along the trench walls which will eventually support a park directly above the mainline trench.  This "tunnel" is discussed in the Fort Washington Way Tunnel section.

Reconstruction of the Broadway overpass in early 2000
[Parsons-Brinkerhoff Photo]

The newly rebuilt Ft. Washington Way is a dramatic improvement over the original in all aspects of traffic capacity, safety, and aesthetics.  In short it is how the roadway should have been built originally, except for one critical aspect: the Broadway overpass.  As it stands, the Broadway overpass is a hulking elevated structure that severely disrupts the layout of the city in its immediate vicinity.  The overpass was necessary in order to avoid rebuilding the entire Lytle Tunnel (as well as its approach to the north) deeper and in a different lane configuration.  Planners used the Lytle Tunnel as a starting point for the new highway's design, since it could not be rebuilt without considerable expense and disruption to the city. 

A view of the Broadway overpass from Main St.  The Queen City Square office tower,
located at the intersection of Broadway and 3rd St., is seen under construction.
[Jake Mecklenborg November 2004]

It would have been preferable for the expressway to pass under Broadway in a trench similar to what exists for the next quarter mile east.  Instead, downtown is cut off from the riverfront at this critical point, where the new Great American Ballpark was recently completed in early 2003.   The proximity of the elevated expressway, the Riverfront Coliseum (now U.S. Bank Arena), and the severing of Sycamore St. combine to place the new baseball stadium on the most aesthetically awkward spot on the riverfront.   As part of the overpass reconstruction, Broadway itself was shifted east so as to align with the Taylor-Southgate Bridge at Pete Rose Way, ameliorating the awkward approach that had existed since 1898. 

The new Ft. Washington Way trench in June 2001, looking east from Elm St.
[Jake Mecklenborg Summer 2001]

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center opened in 2004 on land
occupied by the original Fort Washington Way.
[Jake Mecklenborg November 2004]

View looking east from 2nd & Walnut
[Jake Mecklenborg June 19, 2005]

The obscuring of this sign illustrates the growth of trees planted in 2000.
[Jake Mecklenborg June 19, 2005]

The reconstruction project was documented on the now-defunct  Launched in 1997, the website was possibly the first (I believe it beat out by several months) dedicated to a highway project that included graphics, webcams, and monthly construction photos.  Many of the photos below were copied from the website, which disappeared in 2001.  These photos are also examples of crude first generation digital photos (likely taken with a sub-1 megapixel camera).  Unfortunately, I did not have the foresight to copy the webcam logs or the elaborate graphics which appeared on the site, so they are possibly lost.


Original Ft. Washington Way

1950's construction Photos
1998 photos prior to reconstruction
1999 construction photos
2000 construction Photos
Aerial Photos

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