Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) have directed their transportation departments to devise what they call “a cost-saving plan that limits tolls” but moves forward with rebuilding the Brent Spence Bridge linking the states.
Ohio and Kentucky have been trying for years to improve the crossing over the Ohio River between Cincinnati and northern Kentucky but have been unable to find the funding.
Interstates 74 and 71, major freight corridors, merge at the bridge. The Brent Spence gained publicity in 2011 when President Obama stood beside it, calling on Congress to pass a long-term transportation investment bill that would contain money to repair and rebuild the nation’s aging bridges.
The Brent Spence, built in 1963, is highly congested today with commuters and trucks.
In their Jan. 28 announcement the governors said: “Pending approval by lawmakers in early 2016, the states could select a project team as soon as late 2016 and begin construction as soon as 2017.”
Both states have long said that the improved crossing would be built via a public-private partnership, or P3, in which private developers would build the span in exchange for toll revenue.
However, Kentucky lawmakers opposed to tolling have blocked attempts to move the project forward, refusing at one point to adopt legislation that would allow the state to enter into a P3.
According to the announcement, the governors have agreed there will be “a 50% discount in toll rates for frequent commuters who must cross the river almost daily for work, school and other needs.”
No toll rates have been announced.
Improving the crossing, would cost an estimated $2.6 billion, a cost that will grow if the project is delayed, the governors said.
“We simply cannot afford more delay, distraction and gridlock — on the interstate or in the halls of government,” Beshear said in the announcement.
“The Brent Spence Bridge corridor must be expanded to meet the safety and mobility needs of a growing, prosperous region,” he said.
Kasich said the region is an area that “makes things and grows things so it is essential to have a robust infrastructure.”
Without funding for the bridge, commerce and safety is going to suffer, he said.