An idea originally sketched on a cocktail napkin to reduce daily traffic jams at the Fields Ertel/Mason-Montgomery interchange off Interstate 71 broke ground Tuesday.
State, regional and local officials gathered at the busy interchange to kick off construction of a “loop ramp” project expected to reduce traffic flow in the area by as much as 50 percent.
The plan, drawn seven years ago over lunch by Warren County Commissioner Dave Young, will add an exit-only lane from northbound I-71 that will circle through a Metro park-and-ride at the northeast corner of Mason-Montgomery and Fields Ertel.
Traffic from the new loop ramp will flow directly onto Mason-Montgomery Road, allowing motorists heading north to bypass Fields Ertel completely, explained Joe Vogel, a planning and engineering administrator with the Ohio Department of Transportation’s District 08 in Lebanon.
The $12 million project is the centerpiece of several planned improvements to the traffic-clogged interchange, which has long been a source of frustration for residents and commuters.
“We think it’s the piece that will have the most positive impact,” said Vogel. “By taking traffic out of that very congested intersection and allowing people to make that shortcut should help tremendously. It will still be congested, but it will function a lot better.”
About 80,000 vehicles travel through the intersection each day, with about half of those motorists headed north on Mason-Montgomery Road, said Young.
The loop ramp represents Warren County’s “single most important infrastructure improvement” and ranks among the top five most important transportation projects in Greater Cincinnati, he said.
The area is a key economic engine for Warren County. Within miles of the interchange are, among others: Procter & Gamble’s Mason Business Center, Deerfield Towne Center shopping center, Kings Automall and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Mason campus.