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McGrath, McConnell disagree on Brent Spence replacement plans

Who foots the bill? Kentucky, Ohio or Uncle Sam?
WCPO brent spence bridge.png
Posted at 5:17 PM, Oct 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-28 20:58:59-04

FLORENCE, Ky. — Politicians have spent more than a decade campaigning on the promise of a replacement for the Brent Spence Bridge connecting Cincinnati to Northern Kentucky. Speaking Wednesday in Florence, Sen. Mitch McConnell said Kentuckians should look for a solution from Frankfort — not from offices like his in Washington.

“There’s never been an earmark big enough in the history of America to build that bridge,” he told the small crowd of mayors, business leaders and journalists who gathered at Kona Ice headquarters Wednesday afternoon.

McConnell, who hopes to win a seventh Senate term on Election Day, said the federal government will not set aside the funds necessary to replace the ailing span. If commuters want a replacement, he said, the money will have to come from inside their state. Gas taxes, maybe. The current plan involves tolls.

His opponent, retired Marine Corps pilot Amy McGrath, disagreed in an interview the week before.

“Brent Spence Bridge is America’s number one infrastructure emergency,” she said on Oct. 25. “We have to fix this, and we can do it without tolls, and that is what I am saying I will do.”

She said she sees the Brent Spence as a national issue that should be remedied with national funds — potentially by a cut of the Moving Forward Act, a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill passed by the House of Representatives on July 1.

The Senate, under McConnell’s leadership, has not held a vote on the act. On the day it was passed by the House, he criticized its broad scope, which includes funding for roads, water projects, and affordable housing while pushing for “deep reductions in pollution.”

“House Democrats appear addicted to pointless political theater,” McConnell said. “So, naturally, this nonsense is not going anywhere in the Senate. It will just join the list of absurd House proposals that were only drawn up to show fealty to the radical left.”

The bridge will need replacing regardless of who wins the McConnell-McGrath Senate contest.

The Brent Spence carries about 160,000 cars across the Ohio River every day. At 57, it’s considered technically safe but badly outdated by infrastructure and transportation experts.

Both state and federal governments have known it’s outdated for years. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump each called for a solution during their campaigns.

But the stumbling block to a replacement has always been the cost: An estimated $2.6 billion, per the Ohio Department of Transportation. That number increases every year the project isn’t completed.