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The infrastructure bill is finally here; what's next?

Western Hills viaduct
Posted at 6:58 PM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-16 22:21:57-05

CINCINNATI — One day after the largest infrastructure investment in U.S. history, it's time to turn to next steps to determine what the deal will mean for infrastructure in the Tri-State.

“Optimism has now been replaced by realistic thought that we have to really get going so that the projects can get going,” said Mark Policinski.

Policinski is CEO of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana Regional Council of Governments. The group will be part of the team determining which projects apply for a piece of the funding.

“The rules and regulations that are attached to legislation are pretty much put together after the legislation passes. So, we're actually waiting for clarity on a lot of issues,” said Policinski.

First, Congress must tell states how to apply for the money.

“My hope is that we will be able to move quickly on this,” said Sen. Rob Portman. “They’re in the process now setting it up. We had to wait until the bill was actually passed.”

Sen. Portman helped work on the bill. On Tuesday, he said the Tri-State area will get some funding immediately through programs that already exist, like the highway safety improvement program.

Funding for multi-billion-dollar projects like the Brent Spence Bridge corridor will need federal approval, for which states will have to submit applications.

“The federal share in the past has been 20 percent of a project,” said Policinski. “Now, with this new bill, the federal share in some of the grants are 80 percent, even one is 90 percent. There’s optimism that if we get substantial federal participation, we could build the bridge without tolls.”

He said, in addition, the Western Hills Viaduct improvements make the list; the 100-year-old bridge carries roughly 55,000 vehicles a day.

Also, Policinski said he believes I-275 in Kentucky, where traffic backs up daily, will get attention since it's a major route for deliveries heading to and from the airport. CVG is the seventh largest port in the U.S.

“It’s growing by leaps and bounds. Amazon Prime and DHL have made billion-dollar investments there, and that’s going to continue to grow. So, we have to make sure the ability to get to and from CVG is intact,” said Policinski.

He also said the Route 32 corridor to Clermont County is a contender for funding, because it is heavily congested at times and booming with commerce.

He said he also expects the region to build out the electric vehicle charging station system.