FRANKFORT, Ky. – Potential funding plans for the Brent Spence Bridge replacement head to the Kentucky General Assembly facing an uncertain future.
Coming as no surprise to many, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear requested Wednesday the state legislature approve his Recommended Highway Plan. Part of that plan that provides $60 million of traditional federal highway funds and $1.7 billion in toll-based revenue bonds to complete the project.
The plan calls for a second bridge to run adjacent to the Brent Spence to carry all I-75 traffic and the southbound lanes of I-71. The old Brent Spence Bridge would still carry northbound I-71 lanes according to the plan mentioned by Beshear.
“Our transportation system carries the life blood of our Commonwealth,” Gov. Beshear said. “Our commerce, economic development, education, community growth – our very quality of life – all depend on a transportation infrastructure that is as modern and safe as we can make it. Our Recommended Highway Plan represents a critical investment in that infrastructure.”
Though most area Kentucky and Ohio lawmakers agree the functionally obsolete Brent Spence Bridge needs to be replaced, ongoing debate on how to fund the replacement project leaves its ability to move forward uncertain.
At the center of that debate is the toll funding mechanism suggested by Beshear.
“Any piece of legislation that’s advancing the concept of tolling, I don’t see it moving at any great pace,” said Sen. Katie Stine of Southgate in a recent interview.
Rep. Arnold Simpson of Covington said he too would hesitate in approving any plan dependent on tolls.
Simpson said that, from his perspective, there are too many questions left unanswered about the project to move forward. He told WCPO he believes it would be smarter to wait a couple years to see the results of what he calls the “grand experiment in Louisville.”
As Beshear noted, toll revenue bond funding is currently being used to construct the Downtown Crossing bridge in Louisville.
Others warned that any further delay in starting the planning and execution to replace the Brent Spence Bridge will be costly.
Mark Policinski, executive director of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) has warned that if delays continue, the project might not be built until 2035.
“There are estimates that it’s going to cost us hundreds of billions of dollars in time and fuel wasted,” he said. “It’s going to cost us safety. We also know that the cost of the bridge is going to be much higher.”
Kentucky’s General Assembly is scheduled to conduct its business through April 15 in Frankfort, Ky.
For a full review of opinions and where local voices stand on Beshear’s announcement read: “Brent Spence Bridge: Could project already be dead in Kentucky General Assembly's 2014 session? ”.
WCPO reporter Lucy May contributed to this report.