Planners first identified Ohio’s Eastern Corridor, an area east of downtown Cincinnati through Hamilton and western Clermont counties, as a travel bottleneck in the 1960s. A multi-modal proposal that included plans for a commuter rail and bike paths eventually took shape. But the most controversial aspect of the Eastern Corridor Program, a proposal to relocate a portion of State Route 32 through the towns of Newtown and Mariemont, came to dominate the discussion. Conflicts regarding environmental, historical, and community issues played out through heated public meetings, lengthy written correspondence, and litigation. The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) retained CBI to assess whether a collaborative process could resolve the impasse.
CBI interviewed more than 100 interested parties for their perspectives on the issues and to assess whether a collaborative process could help the project move forward. Perspectives differed. Some felt a new road would be an essential and well-conceived element of the overall Eastern Corridor Program; others believed the plan unnecessary and something that would lead to unacceptable impacts. A few believed that a new road would address legitimate needs but was infeasible and other approaches should be investigated. CBI also discovered that parties had some shared underlying interests, but that overall trust had eroded among stakeholders, hampering productive dialogue.
CBI presented eight options, some of which could be combined or sequenced in different ways. While no one choice would fully satisfy everyone, CBI believed a more collaborative approach might build trust and generate creative options that would satisfy a broad range of interests.
Based in part on CBI’s assessment and other feedback from a range of stakeholders, ODOT withdrew its long-standing plans to relocate State Route 32. It opted instead to renew collaboration with the involved municipalities and other key interested parties to identify smaller-scale approaches for addressing the most pressing transportation concerns in the project area. ODOT’s approach has resulted in increased support as all parties work more collaboratively toward finding workable solutions to address the region’s mobility needs.