Debate continues over Brent Spence Bridge highway expansion project
10/23/2015 03:06 PM
ERLANGER – Members of the Northern Kentucky Legislative Caucus heard from several coalitions on how to move forward with the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project, but left with no consensus of which plan will be the most effective for the area.
The ideas included several things which have already been on the table, from building a new bridge with or without tolls, better maintain the current bridge, and improve the flow of traffic by constructing a new eastern by-pass which would cross the Ohio River east of Cincinnati.
Robert Koehler, deputy executive director of The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI), told legislators that the longer it takes to get plans in place to build a new bridge, the more it will cost and the more the public’s safety will be at risk.
“We need to develop this financial plan so this project can move from the plan to the tip so that it can actually be constructed,” Koehler said at the meeting. “We want to see a state of the art bridge. One that can accommodate the transportation needs as well as the safety needs.”
The Build Our Bridge Now Coalition is a group of approximately 200 businesses, labor leaders, local governments and community leaders whose goal is to find a way to build a new bridge.
Matt Davis, director of the coalition, told legislators that his coalition recognizes that in all likelihood, the only way the project will get done is if tolls are part of the equation.
“If you can come up with a plan B for me on how we do this without tolls, or massive tax increases, we’re all ears for that,” Davis said. “Let’s just all get into a room and wrestle this issue to the ground.”
Northern Kentucky United is a coalition of civic and business leaders, labor leaders, residents and elected officials who oppose tolls associated with the Brent Spence Bridge.
Former state senator Joe Meyer, who represents Northern Kentucky United, has concerns that businesses might be forced to relocate to Ohio because of tolls. He also has concerns about drivers who will cause congestion on the areas 5 other bridges between Cincinnati and northern Kentucky to avoid the toll.
He favors studying the eastern by-pass plan which would reroute through traffic away from the Brent Spence Corridor.
As for the current condition of the Brent Spence Bridge, he says that it needs to be better maintained by the state.
“The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet postponed the maintenance of the bridge,” Meyer said. “They said let’s not do it, we’ll roll it into this project. Look, this project is years away. Let’s maintain the bridge.”
While nothing was really settled at Friday’s summit, Northern Kentucky Caucus Chair Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, said the main goal was to have a dialogue about various plans that the legislators can study further.
“Being respective of everyone, it was time to put us in a room and listen,” Wuchner said. “Why have people been resistant to the project on the books? Is it just the tolls or are there other elements that we need to hear about? Then there’s new ideas and new visions.”
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