FORT WRIGHT, Ky. – The Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project once seemed like a long shot, but now that funding has been approved, plans to finally expand it and add an adjoining bridge are moving forward.
For a long time, one retention was the footprint of the project, which forced businesses and houses out of the street. That footprint has been reduced significantly, but one Northern Kentucky family is still being asked to evacuate and is expressing frustration.
Ned Kalapasev likes to wrestle with his 12-year-old son Milos in their living room, but he has to be careful. Miloš has a rare condition called Barth syndrome, and is very poorly treated. The condition is characterized by an enlarged and weakened heart, weakness in the muscles used to move, frequent infections, low white blood cells and short stature, Medline Plus reports.
According to Kalapasev, there are only about 250 people in the world.
“As a result, he has had two heart transplants. Many processes. I couldn’t tell you how many blood draws and how many catheter procedures and biopsies and things like that,” Kalapasev said.
Their son’s health is one of the main reasons Kalapasev and his wife Bree love their home in Fort Wright.
They have turned it into an apartment that fits all of Miloš’s needs. He can get in and out without having to climb stairs. He uses a wheelchair when he is tired. The plan was to move down there as he got older so that he would have some independence while his support system was around.
The house is close to their hospital, school and work. Kalapasev and his wife have lived in the house for 16 years, but he has been in her family for 50 years. Her grandfather bought it in the late 1960s.
“It stays in the family because it’s a very nice house on the side of the road. Very unique, you know, personal. Close to everything, but once you’re here, look around. Everything is green, and you are kind in the middle of nowhere,” Kalapasev said. “Everywhere works really well for us.”
Kalapsev is originally from Serbia, the former Yugoslavia. He has been in the United States for 30 years, and he says that he has to work hard for everything he has. His house serves as a gathering place for the rest of the family.
“We really didn’t intend to leave. Once we moved here, we were going to be high on each other as soon as we were ready.
But soon, and Kalapasev does not know exactly how soon, the property is owned by the state of Kentucky and the family is forced to leave. “We got a certified letter saying our property is going to be taken by eminent domain,” Kalapasev said. It was about two months ago.
Kalapasev said he was previously aware of the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Improvement Project and was told it would affect his home in the future. He met for the first time when his son was born.
“I had an idea that this could happen to our house in the future. And then they said, ‘Ah, the money isn’t there,’ we don’t know,” he said.
As progress on the project stalled for several years, Kalapasev put aside any worries he might have had. Now that the project is funded and moving forward, Kalapasev’s is one of the many homes and businesses that need to be cleared. “It’s a disaster. It’s so scary. It is true. No one likes to move. “It’s worse when you’re forced to move.” “We are still under a lot of stress. It’s an extra layer of stress that we don’t want or need.”
The project aims to reduce the pressure on the Brent Spence Bridge, which carries more traffic each day than originally intended and is a key corridor for the entire country.
According to the project’s website: “Ohio and Kentucky are working together to secure future grants for new bridge construction as well as improvements to the existing Brent Spence Bridge and Eight Mile Corridor. A new bridge is essential to improving this national freight corridor, which ranks second in the nation on the American Transportation Research Institute’s 2022 list of top truck bottlenecks.
“The new escort bridge to the Brent Spence Bridge will provide an additional river crossing to the west of the existing structure.
“In addition to reducing congestion, improving safety and increasing access to central business districts and local communities throughout the corridor, current plans require local and through-traffic separation. Local traffic will use the existing Brent Spence Bridge. Through-traffic will use the new Escort Bridge.”
The city of Covington opposed the original plans for the project.
Originally, the footprint was too large, but after negotiations with the City of Covington, commercial relocations were reduced from 18 to 11, and residential relocations were reduced from 118 to 4.
The Kalapasev family is one of only four in Covington south of 12th Street.
“We’re a long way from the bridge, if you think about it,” Kalapasev said. “I understand this is for the greater good. I’m not saying you can’t build the highway or widen the highway. I just don’t want to be displaced and displaced.
KYTC divides property transactions into two categories: properties north of 12th Street and properties south of 12th Street. According to KYTC, the reason for this separation is related to the time of approval of the environmental document.
“From now on, we expect a total of four residences, a significant reduction from 118,” said Naitore Jigbenow, director general of KYTC’s public affairs office. Activity in 2022 will focus primarily on properties south of 12th Street. There are 39 affected properties in this section, one of which is residential conversion. The interstate is widening, and given its proximity to the interstate, we couldn’t avoid their home. There are no commercial transfers in this section. Most effects are where KYTC seeks partial assets, ie, where KYTC seeks to acquire a specific portion of assets. All affected property owners in this portion of the project have been contacted by certified mail.
Once the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) reassessment process is complete, KYTC expects to begin real estate activity for properties north of 12th Street in 2023.
“This portion of the project continues to be developed, and the property inventory is still preliminary, in accordance with NEPA guidelines and policies. We are still assessing the potential impacts on this area,” Jigbenu said. “Property owners will be contacted prior to beginning the procurement process. The project team is committed to minimizing impacts as much as possible while the work continues. It is also important to note that the information shared with Mayor Meyer was a rough snapshot at that time. For example, as we continue to finalize the details north of 12th Street, the 11 in Covington Business reduced to 6. Of these 6 business results, 2 are billboards and one is a radio tower.
Kalapasev said he thinks the lack of transparency is a one-sided process. “Honestly, I haven’t seen the plans. I have repeatedly asked for plans and have not seen them from anyone yet,” he said.
He said the state has reviewed the housing and is now waiting for what it thinks will be a fair deal. He doesn’t expect to be able to buy a home of the same quality as the one he currently lives in, especially in the current market.
The family hopes to spend one more Christmas there.
Construction of the project is expected to begin in late 2023 and be completed by 2029.