Future of Liberty Twp. suburbia: Pedestrian walkways

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Future of Liberty Twp. suburbia: Pedestrian walkways

Someday soon people may be able to walk from Lakota East High School and Cincinnati Children’s Liberty Campus to mega retail shopping center Liberty Center on a pedestrian bridge over Ohio 129.

Liberty Twp. will commission a design and engineering study to get a better cost estimate on the first part of a broader plan to make the township more pedestrian friendly. The cost estimate for the study is $10,000.

The township has been meeting with stakeholders, like the hospital and owners of the mixed-use center, hoping to forge financing partnerships for a broad plan to build several pedestrian bridges and a tunnel between commercial areas that are currently separated by highways.

Creating a walkable community is not merely an amenity but a must have to compete for desirable business developments, officials said.

“According to all of the experts, in order to have a sustainable urban design, with walkability for health, environment and economic benefits, the experts in zoning are saying that the suburb of the future, in order to be sustainable, must have these features,” Liberty Twp. Trustee Tom Farrell said. “They must have these features because not only do the Baby Boomers want them but the Millenials and everyone in between.”

It makes the most sense to start with the walkway between Liberty Center and the hospital, Liberty Twp. Trustee Steve Schramm said.

The total cost to build the pedestrian bridge over Ohio 129, a pedestrian bridge between Cincinnati Children’s and The Christ hospital over Interstate 75, and to add a walkway on Liberty Way and a tunnel under Liberty Way from the north side of the road to Voice of America Park is estimated at $11 million, according to Farrell.

“We’ve got to think about this globally,” Schramm said. “This is doing exactly what we want it to do. You start driving development to this plan. If we really want to have an impact right now I think (plan) A is one that can have an impact, it would have legs, it would have interested parties. We could push that one past the goal line faster than any of the others.”

Cincinnati Children’s and Liberty Center declined to comment on a potential partnership.

“Ultimately I think the whole project needs to be completed or it doesn’t have the merit that it has piece-by-piece,” Farrell said.

Jose Castrejon, the township’s consultant from McGill Smith Punshon Design, said the township should look at other projects on their plate like road resurfacing where sidewalks can be added.

“You prioritize projects and part of the priority piece is can you afford it or not and what is the need,” Castrejon said. “Then we always look at the low hanging fruit, what are the projects you can create, whether you can piggy-back with another project to show progress.”

One of the bridges — at Liberty Way over Interstate 75— could be piggy-backed with the modifications planned for that interchange, he said.

Farrell said they haven’t asked anyone for money yet and won’t until they have a better handle on the cost, but he said everyone they have contacted was excited about the prospect.

The trustees met with their counterparts in West Chester Twp. last summer to see if they share the vision. The response was lukewarm but the three trustees there now, with the addition of newcomer Ann Becker all said they might be interested as long as the are public/private financing projects.

“The reason for getting all the stakeholders involved is to get more data points on whether they are willing to pony up money to create this walkable community,” Farrell said. “And to make sure they believe this is not just a passing trend but the future of suburbia”

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