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I-71/MLK interchange has huge predicted economic impact

CINCINNATI (Jeff Hirsh) -- It's been a long time coming and it's finally rolling along, an interchange at I-71 and Martin Luther King Drive.
The $100 million project is seen as unlocking huge economic potential in Uptown, which is already the second biggest job-generator in Cincinnati. 

Right now there is no direct connection between I-71 and Martin Luther King Drive.  The closest spot is a place where old mattresses come to die.  But soon, the area will get a makeover special enough to wake the financial dead from one of the mattresses.

Jerry Wray, the Ohio Transportation Department director, said, "This is the most exciting project.  We have 1000 in Ohio right now. This is probably the most exciting one we have in terms of impact on the community."

The MLK exchange will connect I-71 with the hospitals and University of Cincinnati.  The hope is to create an innovation corridor, with new medical-related businesses, along with hotels and apartments.  One study has the economic impact at $700 million and 10,000 jobs.  All sorts of movers and shakers said unprecedented cooperation not seen in recent years is the reason this project is happening.

Ohio Lt. Governor Mary Taylor (R) said, "And I think for too many years we have not seen that type of collaboration and that's unfortunate.  Because it's been to the detriment of projects like this that's now going forward because of all the work of the people in this community who care so much about it."

There's more to the project than economic development.  The new route provides a straight shot to University Hospital, Children's and Good Sam.  Instead of having to weave through lights it could save several minutes and saving several minutes could actually save a life.  One critical component was convincing neighbors they wouldn't be bulldozed out of their houses, as happened with I-75 and 71 constructions.

When asked how they convinced the neighbors that the project was not going to be another splitting the community and tearing houses down, Joyce Kinley of Project Community Outreach said, "Just simply inviting them to the table to have a say in what was going to take place."

Prep work like surveying has started.  The interchange should be finished in the fall of 2017.  The state is paying $50 million for the interchange, the city is paying $20 million and the regional council of government is putting up $25 million.

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