OH, KY governors: Tolls included in Brent Spence Bridge plan - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

OH, KY governors: Tolls included in Brent Spence Bridge plan

(PHOTO: FOX19/ Brett Hoffland) (PHOTO: FOX19/ Brett Hoffland)
(PHOTO: FOX19/ Gordon Graham) (PHOTO: FOX19/ Gordon Graham)

The governors of Kentucky and Ohio met for the first time in two years Wednesday to announce a bi-state plan to improve the Brent Spence Bridge.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear told reporters they would direct their teams to develop cost-saving solutions by March 30 and have a viable financial plan for the bridge in place by the end of the year.

One major part to this financial plan is the addition to tolls on the bridge. Tolls for local commuters and frequent travelers would receive a 50 percent discount. The toll revenues will be split evenly between Ohio and Kentucky.

“We simply cannot afford more delay, distraction and gridlock on the interstate or in the halls of government,” said Gov. Beshear. “The Brent Spence Bridge corridor must be expanded to meet the safety and mobility needs of a growing, prosperous region. Jobs and lives depend on it.”

The new plan would double the number of interstate lanes from eight to 16.

"Now's the time for action, we have to do this now," said Matt Davis with the 'Build Our Bridge Now Coalition.'

Beshear says taxpayers spend $7 million each month lawmakers fail to take action to replace the Brent Spence Bridge, now more than 50-years-old and considered functionally obsolete.

Davis said without any federal money to foot the estimated $2.6 billion project, tolls are a viable option.

"Several different departments of transportation have looked at this from every angle and every side and they've said that this is the way to go," said Davis.

Sources said this plan indicates locals would pay $1 to cross the bridge with a transponder, while others would pay $2.

"If you look just down the river to Louisville, they're offering a discount for local commuters as well. These are all things that we thought would be part of the mix," said Davis.

Joe Meyer with 'NKY United' said tolls will only hurt communities south of the river and take away as much as $500 million a year from their economy.

Meyer says a recent poll shows that more than 60 percent of residents in Northern Kentucky don't support tolls, and Meyer hopes Beshear stands by his words.

"In 2008, Gov. Beshear said that there would have to be a local recommendation and approval before any particular financing mechanism is agreed upon," said Meyer.

Another aspect of the plan would split the bill between the two states, and lower the overall cost.

"It's very encouraging to see two governors come together in a bi-partisan way and show collaborative leadership to move this project forward," said Davis.

"Going on straight construction cost Ohio should be paying $1.3-1.4 billion and the Kentucky side should be paying approximately $950 million," said Meyer.

Beshear will be out of office at the end of the year because of a term limit, which experts believe could make Wednesday's announcement even more crucial to make sure leaders in both states see eye-to-eye.

"The end of this story hasn't been written yet," said Meyer.

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