Brent Spence Bridge project could cost you more than time and patience

CINCINNATI - Would you be willing to pay a toll every time you cross the Brent Spence Bridge?

You might not have a choice. Local and state leaders are looking into the possibility of a public-private partnership to help fund the $2.4 billion bridge. Public-private partnerships typically involve tolling.

The Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District met Tuesday to hear from two national firms interested in financing and building the new bridge.

Representatives from New York based HNTB and Canada based RBC will discuss their plans for the public-private partnership that could get the bridge project underway.

The Brent Spence Bridge is the most heavily traveled bridge in the Tri-State, carrying more than 160,000 vehicles daily.

"It is congested everyday as we know in this region, it is also a public safety hazard," said Todd Portune, Hamilton County Commissioner and a member of the Hamilton County Transportation District.

Representatives from HNTB and RBC say tolling may be an option to pay for the new bridge.

"A public-public entity can be set up for cost recovery so if it takes $2.4 billion to finance the bridge you'll only have to finance the $2.4 billion then whatever the costs of that debt service is, the tolls will be set just for operations and maintenance and whatever it cost to finance the facility," said a representative from RBC.

Both Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear have expressed their support for tolling the multi-billion dollar project. 

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune says tolling may be the best way to get the project moving.

"We will have taken the Brent Spence Bridge project from the conceptual and theoretical and moved it into the realm of the practical and achievable," Portune said.

The idea is making some Covington residents uneasy.

"You've got a bunch of hard workers going back and forth, back and forth they are not going to want to stop, pay a toll, then go to work that will be nothing but a congestion anyway," said Scott Golz from Covington.

Some local city leaders agree.

"Since you use the bridge everyday on my observation as a frequent user of that bridge if it becomes a tolled bridge people will just jump on the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge or the suspension bridge or the big mack bridge to avoid the toll and then overstressing those bridges," said Bill Seit a board member of the Hamilton County Transportation District.

RCB says you can also place more of the burden on drivers from outside the region, rather than its residents. For example, electronic tolling to measure those vehicles traveling from out of town.

Members of the transportation district are looking into all of those options.

The Hamilton County TID will hear one more presentation in July from Madrid, Spain based Isolux.

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