MLK interchange

Mark Heyne / WVXU News

If you're heading into Downtown this weekend, plan accordingly.

Northbound I-71 is slated to be closed between Reading Rd/Gilbert Ave and Dana this weekend. The closure begins at 10 p.m. Friday, April 17. The highway will reopen around 6 a.m. Monday, April 20.

Bill Rinehart / WVXU

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has a busy year ahead.  Acting District 8 deputy director Gary Middleton announced the beginning of the construction season Monday afternoon.

“To many Ohioans, construction season means orange barrels and potential delays,” Middleton says.  “However construction season means more than that.  It’s an investment in our state’s transportation system that is vital to our economy and vital to job creation in Ohio.”

Holly Yurchison / WVXU News

Work is already underway on the new Martin Luther King interchange with I-71. On Thursday, state and local officials gathered at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center to tout the project's benefits.

Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jerry Wray praised the way local and state governments came together to fund and fast-track the project.

"What we are setting in motion today is going to change the transportation landscape in the greater Cincinnati  are forever," says Wray.

Mark Heyne / WVXU News

You know spring has really arrived when orange barrel season officially gets underway.  Ohio and local transportation officials got it rolling Thursday with a news conference at the corner of Fields-Ertel and Mason-Montgomery, a congested intersection next to I-71 that is slated for a loop ramp to make it easier and safer for drivers to navigate.    

The interchange project is one of many the Ohio Department of Transportation said will make this state construction season the largest ever and put a lot of Ohioans back to work.

Holly Yurchison / WVXU News

State officials are expected to award a contract to build the new interchange on I-71 at Martin Luther King Drive in April, and construction could begin in July.  

Ohio Department of Transportation officials updated a city council committee Tuesday on the $118 million project.  Assistant Project Manager John Otis said when the work begins contractors will not have a complete set of plans.

Holly Yurchison / WVXU News

Cincinnati Council will likely vote Wednesday to sell bonds to pay for the city's portion of building a new interchange on I-71 at Martin Luther King Drive.  The plan has been in the works for several years.  

“We’re not just building a road because we need a road there,” Council Member Yvette Simpson said.  “We anticipate lots of development along the corridor.”

The MLK interchange is designed to provide easier access to the Uptown area and places like the University of Cincinnati and several major hospitals.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

 UPDATE:  The OKI board unanimously approved the funding plan at its meeting Thursday morning.

The OKI Regional Council of Governments board will vote Thursday on a first-of-its kind financing plan to rebuild the Interstate 71/Martin Luther King interchange.

OKI Director Mark Policinski says the plan calls for a loan from the state infrastructure bank.

Holly Yurchison / WVXU News

Governor Kasich's transportation funding plan released this week would give a boost to a project to build a new interchange at Martin Luther King Junior Drive and I-71 in Cincinnati's Uptown.  The plan calls for starting construction next year on the $107 million project. 

Local officials have already been making their own plans for the interchange and the second of two planning studies is being held tonight.  Uptown Consortium CEO Beth Robinson says the project is expected to radically change the face of Uptown and increase traffic on MLK.

Uptown Access Study website

Construction could start as soon as next summer on a plan to build an interchange with Interstate 71 and Martin Luther King Drive in Cincinnati.  

The Ohio Department of Transportation is fast-tracking the project and could select a consultant and contractor by the end of the year.  

But Cincinnati officials are still working to find a $20 million match for the construction.

City Transportation and Engineering Director Michael Moore explained that Tuesday during a Major Transportation and Infrastructure Projects Subcommittee meeting.

Uptown Access Study website

Cincinnati officials will be meeting with Ohio transportation representatives Wednesday about accelerating the construction of an interchange on I-71 at Martin Luther King Drive.  

That project wasn't scheduled to start until 2018.  But now officials are aiming for work to begin in 2014.  

Making that change could mean the new interchange won't cost as much.