New push coming for needed Brent Spence Bridge replacement

CINCINNATI - Sen. Sherrod Brown held a news conference Tuesday to discuss federal funding for a replacement for the aging Brent Spence Bridge.

At the downtown Cincinnati news conference, Sen. Brown promoted putting a Brent Spence Bridge replacement on the agenda for a new national infrastructure 'bank' that he will propose as a way to find major investment projects in Ohio and across the nation.

His news conference featured top executives from major Cincinnati and nationally-based businesses, like Kroger and UPS, who say rebuilding the bridge over the Ohio River is a vital investment to keeping north-south transportation routes open and safe.

An infrastructure 'bank' would provide loans and loan guarantees along with direct federal financing for major projects that would help businesses.

The National Society of Civil Engineers reported in July that failing infrastructure projects like aging, deficient highways will cost more than $2.7 trillion overall and $129 billion a year to bring up to code. Estimates say as much as 3 percent of the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) crosses the Brent Spence Bridge every year.

It's estimated a new replacement or addition to the Brent Spence Bridge could cost more than $2 billion and take a decade to plan and build.

Sen. Brown agreed that as efforts to cut the federal deficit reduce funding in the coming years, it's important to get a Brent Spence Bridge replacement on the agenda as soon as possible. He envisions it as providing loans and loan guarantees for local and state government shares of building a replacement bridge.

It's expected proposals for a national infrastructure bank will be presented in Washington, D.C., when Congress gets back in session from its August recess.

If there were any controversy at the news conference, it was over whether a replacement bridge should charge tolls. When asked about tolls on the bridge, Sen. Brown says that's a local decision that Kentucky, Ohio and local governments would have to make.

Cincinnati Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls was at the news conference and she says she expects there would have to be a toll on the bridge because that's the only way local governments could help fund it.

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