The 1-71 tunnel completed under Lytle Park in 1970 is only a little over 1,000 feet long – you can see daylight at the other end when you enter it – but that still makes it the longest tunnel in Ohio and the Ohio Department of Transportation is clearly taking their responsibilities very seriously in terms of updating the ventilation fans and lighting systems to the tune of $30 million, a project that will take over two years.
We affectionately refer to this project as the Mystery Hole because it’s difficult for non-engineers of average intelligence and reasonable common sense to understand the need for this Hoover damn-like structure to ventilate such a tiny little stretch of highway. Smart folks with City Hall and construction experience started to contact me shortly after they saw the layout of the footers, suggesting there was something more to find out about the real scope of this project.
The main floor is four feet thick and took almost 1900 yards of concrete. Operations began around 11:30 pm on Monday, October 19 and ran continuously through Tuesday afternoon. Two concrete pump trucks ran that whole time with as many as 14 concrete trucks per hour during the 16 hour operation.
Come on. Admit it. It looks just a tad bit excessive, don’t you think?
A couple weeks ago I had coffee with a reader who has worked for a wide variety of government agencies including OKI (the Ohio Kentucky Indiana agency responsible for oversight of federal transportation dollars) and he is passionate about transportation. After giving the problem a few minutes thought he suggested the project makes perfect sense if it’s not just to ventilate the existing tunnel but enough power to take care of the entire length of Ft. Washington Way if and when they cap it for future development.
Mayor Cranley used an Emergency Ordinance last year to rename part of 3rd St. in honor of Carl Lindner, and when I questioned why it was an emergency a member of his staff explained to me that the Mayor was hoping the announcement at Great American’s annual Christmas party might encourage them to help pay for the cap. Which surprised me. I didn’t even know the City of Cincinnati wanted to cap the highway – but as this is the most reasonable explanation yet for the Lytle Park Mystery Hole, I’m starting to suspect we do.
Once again, as in all things involving commercial real estate development, the most important questions for citizens to ask are: “How do these decisions get made?” and “Why don’t reasonably intelligent non-engineers with average common sense trust their government?” Why – oh why – is it necessary for me to play detective?