Covington leaders to talk about tolls and economic impact regarding Brent Spence Bridge

Would reroute I-71 traffic over "Big Mac" bridge

COVINGTON, Ky. - If Covington City Commissioner Steve Frank has his way, I-71 traffic will be taken off the Brent Spence Bridge and routed over the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge into Campbell County.

Frank revisited that alternative Monday to handle Brent Spence Bridge overcrowding and lessen the disruption the proposed $2.4 billion reconstruction will have on Covington.

"What I've been proposing all along is that we measure twice before we cut once," he said. "Everybody wants to rush a decision to build the bridge now."  

It would route I-71 over the Beard Bridge and connect it to the interstate in the Richwood area of Boone County.

"The concept is to continue I-71 through southern Boone, Kenton and Campbell County to open that southern tier for additional development," he said. "Connect it back into I-275 somewhere in Campbell County so you don't need a bridge at all."

No cost estimates were provided.

However, Ohio Department of Transportation spokesperson Steve Faulkner said it's "highly unlikely" that the Beard Bridge alternative will be reconsidered, since the entire construction project involves an eight-mile corridor from the Western Hills Viaduct in Cincinnati to Dixie Highway in Fort Mitchell.

However, that's one of the proposals likely to be discussed Tuesday night during a special Covington City Commission meeting dedicated to the Brent Spence Bridge project.

The meeting is designed to update Covington's new commissioners on the project along with officials from the city's neighbors of Park Hills, Fort Wright, Fort Mitchell, Ludlow and Taylor Mill.

Officials from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and HNTB will make a presentation on the ongoing Value for Money Study that should be completed by mid-February.

That should help determine what level of tolling is needed to help pay for the project.

Covington City Manager Larry Klein is also expected to provide an update on an economic impact story
the city has commissioned from the University of Cincinnati Economic Center.

Commissioner Frank said he knows in general terms what it's likely to say..

"A lot of businesses are going to get taken. Roads like Lewis Street, which is how you get to DeVou Park and Park Hills and Kenton Hills -- that's going to be lost," he said. "Nobody has come to us and explained who's going to pay the tab for creating a new road up to DeVou Park."  

Frank added he's also worried about the impact the I-75/I-71 corridor improvements will have on the Kyle's Lane exit.

"That exit can't handle the traffic that Covington has for gasoline and getting a sandwich when you're hungry," he said. "It will make a very difficult traffic situation worse for the folks in Fort Wright, Park Hills and Covington neighborhoods."

Covington Business Council Chairman Steve Brunson said he agrees that all options be considered, but that whichever plan is ultimately chosen be a permanent solution to the Brent Spence Bridge problem.

"We certainly know it's going to be a negative while the work's going on, but we definitely are looking forward to the positives when the work is finished," he said. "It has to be done. The bridge has to be corrected."

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