Brent Spence Bridge plan reboot looks for cost savings and toll discounts

01/28/2015 06:19 PM

COVINGTON — The governors of Kentucky and Ohio are rebooting their plans to build a replacement Brent Spence Bridge in Northern Kentucky. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced they’re looking for ways to cut costs and reduce tolling to the bridge on Wednesday.

Beshear told reporters that frequent users of a new Brent Spence Bridge would get a discount on tolls and Kentucky and Ohio would split construction costs and toll revenues under a newly proposed working plan.

In addition, to the sharing cost elements and toll discounts, there is a focus on creating cost-savings solutions to try to lower the projected $2.6 billion cost as well as putting together a workable finance plan by the end of 2015 so legislators from both states can allocate funds during the 2016 session.

Beshear said that frequent users, who use the bridge daily for school or work, will receive a discount of 50 percent, although the cost of the toll is still to be determined.

“We won’t really know the exact amount of tolls until a lot of variables are settled including, if you’re going to sell bonds, what the interest rate will be,” Beshear said.

Both governors agreed that both states will benefit from a new bridge and should share the expenditures and revenues equally.

“The added capacity, the expanded economic activity, so, it makes sense to split the tab and split the revenues,” Beshear said.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Ohio Department of Transportation and their consultants are scrutinizing the current replacement plan cost for a new bridge identifying potential changes in design, construction and financing approaches to lower the overall costs. That study is due March 30.

Beshear admits that he doesn’t know exactly where the savings will be but a similar plan with the Louisville bridges cut the cost from $4.1 billion to $2.3 billion.

Beshear warns the longer the project is delayed, the more the area will be hurt and the more the project will cost.

“Traffic is going to grow more congested, not less,” Beshear said. “Driving will grow more dangerous, not less.”

Kasich says that he’s tired of hearing from the ant-toll proponents, who, in his words, are part of the dysfunction in America today.

“This project should have been started a year ago,” said a visibly frustrated Kasich. “There’s no question about this and it’s going to happen. Just get with the program.”

Pending approval by lawmakers in early 2016, the states could select a project team as soon as late 2016 and begin construction as soon as 2017.

Don Weber

Don Weber is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers politics and education on Pure Politics, Kentucky’s only nightly program dedicated to state politics. Don is a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of Northern Kentucky University. He spent many years covering sports in the Northern Kentucky area before shifting primarily to politics. You can watch Don’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. If you have a story idea you can reach Don at donald.weber@charter.com.

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