U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown: To fix Brent Spence, feds need to step up

Sen. Brown: Brent Spence needs federal dollars
Posted at 3:39 PM, Feb 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-13 19:08:02-05

CINCINNATI -- The federal government needs to pony up some dough if the Tri-State ever hopes to see a replacement for the Brent Spence Bridge, according to Sen. Sherrod Brown.

The Democratic senator from Ohio didn't mince words during a news conference Monday morning at Smale Riverfront Park at The Banks, where he elaborated on a plan he and fellow Congressional leaders are crafting for the nation's growing list of infrastructure needs, including the Brent Spence Bridge.

IN DEPTH: Can Trump deliver on campaign promise to replace Brent Spence?

He also didn't give many specifics about that plan, which he referred to as bipartisan.

"It's unclear," Brown told reporters when asked how much of the estimated $2.6 billion needed to replace the aging bridge would be covered by federal funds.

"It needs to be new dollars, not just unpaid-for tax breaks," he said.

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump promised to deliver upwards of $1 trillion in transportation and infrastructure investment across the country. During a local campaign event leading up to the election last fall, he mentioned the Brent Spence Bridge specifically.

While the president has not unveiled his infrastructure plan yet, insiders say it will most likely include around $140 billion in federal tax credits for private investors willing to bankroll public infrastructure projects.

"I don't want these tax breaks; I want real dollars," Brown said Monday.

At the same time, though, Brown said he feels reassured by a Republican president's promise to rebuild America's infrastructure.

READ MORE: Louisville toll bridges re-ignite question on whether it's the Brent Spence solution

"I'm more confident. Now, with a Republican president suggesting a $1 trillion plan... I'm more optimistic," he said.

Brown said federal dollars need to be a "huge, huge part" in funding the 54-year-old bridge's replacement.

"Local communities simply can't afford to fund projects like this alone."

But when asked about the contentious toll issue -- that is, whether or not the Brent Spence would become a tolled corridor, in order to finance the project -- Brown balked.

"That's up to the local agencies," he said.

The potential for tax credits meant to incentivize private investment imply that tolls will likely be a part of the conversation. Historically, infrastructure projects that include private investors rely on tolls or other revenue streams to finance those projects and produce a return on investment.