Top road official says I-69 is paved with good intentions even as Northern Ky. waits for bridge

11/19/2013 06:39 PM

Sorry Northern Kentuckians — a new bridge will mean tolls, said Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Mike Hancock.

“We’d prefer not to have to use tolls to pay for this project, but yes, our conclusion is that given the state of the federal and state transportation coffers that tolling really is the only way to make this $2.6 billion project a reality,” Hancock said.

In October, a consulting firm recommended to the Kentucky and Ohio transportation departments two options to pay for a new bridge across the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Covington:

1. The states cover the cost with a combination of federal, state and local funding some of which would come from selling bonds. And those bonds would be paid back from income from tolls.

2. The states form a public-private partnership in which a private firm helps finance the project and collects the tolls.

Hancock said he and the department don’t have a preference.

“The one that works best is the one we ultimately will prefer. It really comes down to an analysis side by side of what generates the best deal for the people of Kentucky and the people of Ohio,” Hancock said (2:30). Watch the video to see how officials will choose.

Still, he said, the odds of starting construction by 2015 “may be a little long.”

But the new bridge to help carry I-75 and I-71 across the Ohio River isn’t the only massive federal-state project the Transportation Cabinet has been working on.

The cabinet has been gradually converting the Pennyrile Parkway and eventually parts of the Western Kentucky Parkway and the Purchase Parkway in Western Kentucky to convert to Interstate 69. Eventually, the I-69 corridor will stretch from Michigan to Mississippi. But it’s the state that’s responsible for the hundreds of millions of dollars in converting the roadways into federal interstates.

Earlier this year, McClatchy News Service raised questions about the emphasis on I-69 and the planned I-66 corridor across U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers’ district in southern Kentucky.

And Hancock answered questions about how those two stretches of roads through rural Kentucky stack up on the priority list against the urban projects for new bridges in Louisville, which are underway, and in Northern Kentucky.


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