N. Ky. lawmakers to Congress: Bring back earmarks if it means building a new bridge

01/03/2014 11:04 AM

A financing plan Kentucky and Ohio sent this week to the federal transportation department for a proposed $2.6 billion bridge will draw unified opposition from Northern Kentucky lawmakers who are more united than ever against tolls.

Instead, three legislators appearing at the Northern Kentucky Forum at NKU on Thursday night said the federal government should be responsible for covering the bulk of the cost, considering the proposed bridge would carry two major U.S. interstates over the Ohio River.

“If we need to bring back earmarks for projects like this, I’m for it,” said Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown.

On Tuesday, Kentucky and Ohio unveiled a joint draft of a financing plan that called for tolls to pay back private interests that would help cover the costs of the bridge.

The financing plan would have to be eventually approved by the Kentucky General Assembly.

All three lawmakers on the panel said they want to wait on approving any financing plan until at least the Louisville bridges project is completed to see how tolls will go there — or until the federal government agrees to kick in enough money so that tolls aren’t needed.

Democratic Rep. Arnold Simpson said tolls would put too much stress on the rest of the region’s roads and bridges as people find a way to get around the tollbooths.

Kentucky and Ohio’s governors, Steve Beshear and John Kasich have said tolls would have to be a part of any financing plan for a project of this scale.

Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel of Taylor Mill outlined several problems he had with the plan, including that it would call for 25 percent less government funding than what the Louisville bridges project is getting.

And he said tolls would be an unfair tax increase on Northern Kentuckians who commute to Cincinnati.


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