A basic tenet of economic development is that improvements in infrastructure, including roads, attract jobs and investment along with businesses and residents. Construction of the new Kentucky Route 9 in Newport has already kicked off an expected boom of new construction and will ultimately improve access to the river cities, enhance utilization of the Taylor-Southgate Bridge and even take traffic off the crowded and aging Brent Spence Bridge.

The nearly $30 million state-funded project, which is known as the Route 9 Connector, has for years been a major focus of Southbank Partners because of its tremendous potential to spur growth in the community.

The new route from the AA Highway in Wilder to the foot of the Southgate-Taylor Bridge in Newport will feature two roundabouts and greatly enhance the access into Newport and the east side of Covington across the recently rebuilt 12th Street bridge. Since it provides an unimpeded new path into downtown Cincinnati, the Route 9 Connector will give Northern Kentucky commuters an alternative to the daily gridlock of the Brent Spence Bridge. And commuters won’t be driving on neighborhood streets; the new corridor is being built as a four-lane boulevard that will allow traffic to move much more efficiently and smoothly from the AA Highway into Downtown Cincinnati.

Improved access also provides a more inviting opportunity for residents of Northern Kentucky suburbs to visit restaurants, businesses and attractions in Newport and Covington.

On Newport’s industrial west side, an estimated 70 acres will be opened for economic development. New Riff Distilling has already unveiled plans for a $12.5 million “Whiskey Campus” that will include storage for up to 28,000 barrels of bourbon along with a restaurant and tap room on the city’s west side.

In addition, development of the Aqua at the Levee—which features apartments and an Aloft Hotel—a new Hampton Inn at the foot of the Taylor-Southgate Bridge and the planned SkyWheel at Newport on the Levee can all be traced backed to the construction of the corridor.

With new access comes new opportunities for residential investment and development. Much of the existing housing stock in the west end of Newport is now ripe for the same type of rehabilitation we’ve seen in elsewhere in Newport neighborhoods as well as in other river cities.

There is also optimism that the road project will finally spur construction at the Ovation site in Newport at the confluence of the Licking and Ohio rivers. Long a vacant lot, the site is now prime for new development opportunities.

I truly believe the impact of the new Route 9 Corridor cannot be overstated. As Newport City Manager Tom Fromme has said, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Southbank Partners, the cities of Newport and Covington, and local businesses, developers and investor couldn’t agree more.