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Local businesses brace for Senate vote on infrastructure bill that could benefit Tri-State

Brent Spence among projects that could benefit
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Posted at 4:14 PM, Aug 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-09 23:15:55-04

COVINGTON, Ky. — As early as Tuesday or Wednesday, U.S. senators expect to vote on a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that could impact the Brent Spence Bridge.

It's a benefit that some local business owners say can't come soon enough.

“It just makes it harder every day,” said Tim Eversole.

Eversole owns Bean Haus, a coffee shop in Covington's Mainstrasse Village, not far from the bridge. He said he has lost 25% of sales since maintenance started closing lanes on the bridge in March.

“We've lost employees,” said Eversole. “You can't make it here. I mean, it takes forever. And on the other hand, deliveries. Our deliveries never get here on time anymore, and now there’s higher up-charges.”

The bill senators expect to vote on this week would dedicate $60 billion over 10 years to infrastructure projects like the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor.

“Much of the money is meant to go toward bridges just like ours," said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. "So, bridges that have a lot of commercial traffic."

The Brent Spence Bridge carries Interstates 71 and 75 across the Ohio River. It was never built to accommodate the up to 160,000 vehicles that cross it daily.

The goal is to build a twin bridge next to it to spread out traffic. That would cost more than $2 billion, experts estimate, and local and state governments have not been able to fund construction despite politicians' promises to move toward funding.

Funding streams that could be used to fund the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project:

  • $12.5 billion for the Bridge Investment Act, to provide grants for rehabilitation and replacement of bridges. For bridges of regional significance with total costs of greater than $100 million, grant awards should be at least $50 million, and for any other projects not less than $2.5 million.
  • $27.5 billion for a new formula bridge grant program to states for further investment in the rehabilitation, repair, and replacement of our nation’s bridges.
  • $5 billion in supplemental appropriations for the brand new National Infrastructure Project Assistance grant program, which supports multi-modal, multi-jurisdictional projects, like the Brent Spence Corridor project.
  • $7.5 billion for the RAISE (formerly BUILD) grant program. This program supports surface transportation projects of local and regional significance.
  • $3.2 billion in increased funding for the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program. These funds are utilized for highway and rail projects that are deemed regionally and nationally significant.

"It'll take 10 to 20 years to design and build whatever they come up with,” said Eversole. “I hope the impact doesn't last so much that it starts closing businesses down."

The current infrastructure bill does not name the bridge specifically. Portman said state and local leaders would have to apply for grants.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said it will be closely monitoring the legislation. Even after it passes, Kentucky and other states will have to carefully study the details. KYTC spokesperson Nancy Wood wrote, “It’s important to understand what federal dollars will be returned or made available through grants over the next several years, so our statewide construction program can be planned accordingly.”

Wood says KYTC and ODOT will work together to best position the Brent Spence project to compete for funding.