Gov. Beshear says costs for new Brent Spence Bridge will escalate the longer the project is delayed
12/22/2014 06:32 PM
COVINGTON — Gov. Steve Beshear warned northern Kentucky business leaders that delaying the start of the new Brent Spence Bridge project will cost taxpayers $7 million more a month.
Beshear, who spoke Monday at the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Covington, told chamber members that the costs rise sharply due to inflation each month the project is delayed.
“At $84 million a year, waiting five years to address congestion and safety adds over $400 million to the cost of that bridge,” Beshear said. “Waiting 10 years, like some seem to suggest that we can afford to do, will add over $800 million to the cost.”
After his address, Beshear talked about the possibility of talking to the state’s federal delegation, including soon-to-be U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, about securing funds for the project.
McConnell has proposed a plan to pay for the bridge, but that involves repealing prevailing wage.
“I’ve heard talk in northern Kentucky that we ought to look to Washington now that the Senate control will be changing and that our folks have a lot more influence and look, (Ohio) Gov. (John) Kasich and I are wide open to any extra money that anybody can come up with to help us build this bridge,” Beshear told reporters.
State Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, said that he agrees with Beshear’s assessment that delaying the project will drive up the cost, he and his fellow northern Kentucky legislators think they need to take a look at every option. Paying for a new bridge through tolls, though, may be a nonstarter for constituents in the region, he said.
“There’s obviously a great deal of opposition up here and although the costs do go up the longer we wait, we just want to make sure that we do it right and explore every option,” Koenig.
Beshear, however, said funding the project through tolls appears to be the best route for completion.
“But you know, if somebody can wave a magic wand and produce a bunch of federal money, that’s fine and we’ll certainly be open to it, but I’m not sure where it would come from,” he said.
The Democratic governor said he hopes the stark, multi-million-dollar assessment will prod lawmakers toward a financial solution for the new bridge in the upcoming session. Part of his job moving forward, he said, is convincing legislators to act soon.
“The cost of delay is just overwhelming, and 10 years from now, nobody’ll be able to afford to do this if things keep going like they’re going now,” Beshear said. “So we’ve got to strike while the iron’s hot and move ahead.”
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