Ohio, Ky. to study bridge funding options

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Associated Press

Posted on December 13, 2012 at 10:01 AM

COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear on Wednesday agreed to create a bi-state management team that will investigate funding options to replace the nearly 50-year-old Brent Spence Bridge at a cost of more than $2 billion.

The heavily used bridge carries interstate traffic between the two states over the Ohio River and is considered obsolete. The Brent Spence handle more than twice the amount of traffic as was originally intended when it opened in 1963. Preliminary estimates for replacing the bridge run more than $2.6 billion.

"This is a meaningful step forward on one of the most pressing quality of life and economic issues in this region," Beshear said.

Said Kasich: "There's not going to be any nonsense here — we're just going to get this done. This is really important for Kentucky, it's important for Ohio, and it's critical for America to keep things moving through."

The two governors were joined by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and all three said that charging tolls would need to be a part of any financing plan.

"Uncle Sam is not coming in on a white horse to pay for all of this . those days don't exist anymore," Beshear said. "We need to find all kinds of sources."

Beshear and Kasich stressed that tolls would only be in place for as long as needed to pay off any bonds to build the bridge but added that could take decades. They said it was too soon to say how tolls could be collected or what individual tolls might cost.

LaHood said that major bridge projects nationally now include some sort of tolls, a departure from previous federal policy that frowned upon charging travelers along federal interstate highways.

"You cannot build a major bridge today without multiple funding sources," LaHood said. "There's not just one pot of money. It's just the reality of building bridges."

The governors said that the goal for the bi-state team is to come up with a funding plan by the end of 2013, with the hope of breaking ground on a new bridge by the end of 2014.

The current plan is to build a new bridge that would carry Interstate 75 traffic to the south of the existing bridge and reconfigure the old Brent Spence to carry I-71 and local traffic.

Beshear pointed to the success he had in partnering with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels in creating a similar team for building a new bridge in Louisville. That plan eventually evolved to include two new bridges, one to be built by Indiana and one by Kentucky.

The Brent Spence Bridge received national attention earlier this year when President Barack Obama visited it as part of a campaign stop.

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