Cincinnati, Ohio/Interstate 71 Corridor

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Interstate 71 Corridor

Cincinnati, Ohio

(November 1998)


The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana (OKI) Regional Council of Governments is proposing to design and construct a 43-mile Light Rail Transit (LRT) line in a corridor extending north from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and Florence, Kentucky to the City of Mason, Ohio. The proposed alignment will use an existing right-of-way along a portion of Interstate 71 as well as a former Conrail Railroad right-of-way and active right-of-way of the Indiana and Ohio (I&O) Railroad, owned by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA). OKI is planning to initiate preliminary engineering and the preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the first Minimum Operable Segment (MOS-1) extending approximately 16.5 miles. The MOS-1 begins at 12th Street in Covington, Kentucky and terminates at Pfieffer Road in Blue Ash, Ohio. The MOS-1 includes a proposed 18 stations. Capital cost estimates for MOS-1 total $675.8 million (escalated dollars). OKI estimates that 19,821 average weekday riders will use the MOS-1 in the year 2020.

The total capital cost estimate for the entire 43-mile LRT, including 30 proposed stations, for the I-71 Corridor is $1.157 billion (in 1996 dollars).

Interstate 71 Corridor Summary Description

Proposed Project Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line (MOS-1);
16.5 miles, 18 stations
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $675.80 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $337.90 million
Annual Operating Cost Not reported at this time
Ridership Forecast (2020) 19,821 Average Weekday Riders
FY 2000 Financial Rating: Low-Medium
FY 2000 Project Justification Rating: Low-Medium
FY 2000 Overall Project Rating: Not Recommended

The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1998. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates, costs, benefits and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


OKI was designated as the lead local agency for the I-71 Major Investment Study (MIS). The initial phases of the MIS, from May 1995 through November 1997, identified and evaluated a number of transportation mode options and alignments for the I-71 corridor. In March 1998, the study concluded with the selection of the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) recommending the design and construction of a 43-mile LRT line. The entire 43-mile LRT (including MOS-1) is included in OKIís Metropolitan Area Transportation Plan and conforming Transportation Improvement Program. Using $5.8 million in Section 5307 flexible funds, SORTA purchased several portions of active and abandoned railroad right-of-way for the proposed project.

FTA has approved (in December 1998) the initiation of preliminary engineering and the preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the initial 16.5-mile MOS. Section 3030(b) (66) of TEA-21 authorizes the "Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Northeast Corridor" for alternatives analysis and preliminary engineering. Through FY 1999, Congress has appropriated $8.78 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds for the proposed project.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTAís Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. OKI has reported the New Starts criteria for the 16.5-mile MOS-1. N/A indicates that information for a specific measure was not available.


Mobility Improvements

Rating: Low-Medium

OKI estimates the following annual travel time savings for MOS-1 of the I-71 Corridor project:

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No- Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) 3.10 million hours 2.20 million hours

Based on 1990 census data, there are an estimated 13,877 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of the proposed 18 stations for MOS-1. This represents 33 percent of the total number of households within a ½ mile of the proposed MOS-1.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Medium

The Cincinnati metropolitan area is currently classified as a moderate non-attainment area for ozone and is in attainment for carbon monoxide (CO). OKI estimates that in 2020, the proposed project would result in the following emissions reductions. Note that carbon dioxide (CO2) estimates illustrate an increase compared to the TSM and a decrease compared to the No-Build.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No- Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) reduction of 11 annual tons reduction of 10 annual tons
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) increase of 33 annual tons reduction of 26 annual tons
Hydrocarbons (HC) reduction of 2 annual tons reduction of 2 annual tons
Particulate Matter (PM10) reduction of 2 annual tons N/A
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) increase of 12,777 annual tons reduction of 3,536 annual tons

OKI estimates that the proposed project will result in the following decreases in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units Ė BTUs).

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No- Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (million) increase of 453,242 million BTU increase of 250,044 million BTU

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Low

OKI estimates an increase in the systemwide operating cost per passenger mile in the year 2020 for the New Start compared to both the No-Build and TSM alternatives.

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2020) $0.51 $0.53 $0.54

Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1998 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Medium

OKI estimates the following cost effectiveness indices, comparing the proposed project to the No-Build and TSM alternatives:

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No- Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $8.43 $11.72

Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1998 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Low

The Low land use rating reflects the lack of transit-supportive land use or parking policies within the proposed corridor. The Interstate 71 corridor encompasses a variety of different kinds of land uses including the central business district (CBD), inner city neighborhoods, and lower density suburbs. The proposed corridor also includes a number of high trip generators such as two major universities (University of Cincinnati, Xavier University), medical facilities, professional sports complexes, and both urban and suburban retail and office spaces. Total population within a ½ mile radius of all stations in the Minimum Operable Segment is estimated to be 73,700. Total employment in the CBD is 79,700 (8.5 percent of the metropolitan region) at an employment density of 217 jobs per acre. While the metropolitan region as a whole is expected to grow, housing and population densities are projected to decrease for many of the areas along the proposed corridor, and absolute housing and population is forecast to increase for only five of the proposed stations, primarily located near the northern terminus of the corridor. The communities along the proposed corridor have no existing plans or ordinances that encourage station area development, although the project is still early in the development process. Currently, there are no regional parking policies or requirements in place to encourage transit use.

The regionís existing 2020 Metropolitan Transportation Plan recommends that local governments manage growth and encourage alternatives to single occupant vehicles. The City of Cincinnati has applied for certain neighborhoods to be designated Empowerment Zones. Funding has been made available to construct new football and baseball facilities along the Ohio River. As a result, there has been an active interest in redeveloping the riverfront near the proposed corridor.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 50%

OKI proposes a 50 percent share of $337.9 million in Section 5309 New Start funds and $337.9 million (all dollars escalated) in State and local funds.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Low-Medium

The Low-Medium capital plan rating reflects the absence of a financial plan and an entity (existing or new local agency) to construct and operate the proposed new start project. The financing plan, identifying Federal, state and local participation has not been completed. Therefore, it is not possible to identify specific sources of local match at this time. OKI indicates that a more detailed analysis of specific Federal, state and local sources will be addressed in the preliminary engineering/environmental review phase of project development. Both the State of Ohio and the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which together will be responsible for funding 25 percent ($168.95 million) of the proposed project, are strong financially. The remaining 25 percent may be provided by local jurisdictions via a voter referendum on a proposed dedicated transit tax in the form of either a gasoline or sales tax. These potential funding mechanisms will be examined further during the next phase of project development.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Low-Medium

The Low-Medium operating plan rating reflects the absence of a financial plan and an entity (existing or new local agency) to build and operate the proposed new start project. Because a financial plan has not been completed, a definitive analysis of the exact mix of dedicated funding sources, outlining potential operating revenues, is not available. Currently, an agency has not been identified to operate the proposed project once it is constructed. The projectís operating deficit may be covered with an as yet unidentified dedicated transit tax. Operating assistance for the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) is currently provided primarily with local sources, with some Federal contributions. These funding and operating mechanisms will be analyzed further during the next phase of project development.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $1997)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Federal: Section 5309 New Starts $310.00 $8.78 million appropriated through FY 1999
State: $155.00 N/A
Local: $150.00 N/A
Total: $620.00

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

[Interstate 71 Corridor Map (PDF)]