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Gov. Beshear discusses Brent Spence Bridge solutions with U.S. Transportation Sec. Pete Butteigieg

Beshear is pushing for federal funding in the next transportation infrastructure package
Updated: Mar. 1, 2021 at 4:41 PM EST
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX19) - The discussion about the Brent Spence Bridge is back in the light as Gov. Andy Beshear spoke one-on-one with FOX19 NOW about the latest developments.

Last Thursday, Beshear moderated a panel with other governors and new U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

“I did have a chance to bring it up briefly,” said Beshear. “I mentioned that if there is a large transportation package moving through Congress, that’s certainly a place the Brent Spence should be considered for. He was certainly aware of the project. He did mention the importance of it. It’s good to know it is top of mind as he is coming into this new job.”

The governor joins a renewed push to alleviate congestion on Cincinnati’s biggest artery. The bridge connecting downtown to Northern Kentucky carries about 163,000 vehicles a day along interstates 71 and 75 but was only meant for 80,000. Just last week, a new survey named it the second most congested bottleneck in the country.

Everyone agrees a companion bridge is needed, it’s just who is going to foot the $2.5 billion bill. This new bridge would not replace the current one. It would help increase traffic capacity, according to the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor website.

“These are things that take time and communities coming together,” Beshear said when we asked what he would say to those who drive the bridge every day. “We think we need significant buy-in from the federal government. Regardless of what the other piece of the financing is, we have to have substantial dollars from the U.S. government, which hasn’t been forthcoming yet. But we hope in this transportation infrastructure package, we could at least see a start.”

Officials with the U.S, Cincinnati, and Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce met last week. They are pushing congress to pass a comprehensive infrastructure bill by the 4th of July.

“This Brent Spence Bridge cog in the artery, and it is a daily impact,” said Jill Meyer with the Cincinnati Regional Chamber Thursday. ”It is not even limited to just the Cincinnati metro area. From Michigan down to Florida, [we] hear from chambers along that corridor saying ‘When are you going to fix this, it is impacting businesses here as well.’”

“Remember the federal government built all these interstates and interstate bridges originally, and it’s only been in the last two decades and said ‘good luck,’” said Beshear. “If we are going to make true investments at a time when we need the jobs, this is one that should be front and center for congress and would show some good bipartisanship too.”

The bridge received renewed interest when a fiery crash shut it down for six weeks late last year, forcing semi-tractor-trailers and other vehicles onto other routes that led to semis damaging primary roads in Covington, city leaders there have said.

Monday, a months-long project starts on the bridge, painting it for the first time since 1991. Beshear says this move is needed to move along the “megaproject.”

How to pay for the new bridge is a long-time debate that continues today in Kentucky and Ohio. The most controversial payment option to pay for the Brent Spence project uses tolls, which Ohio leaders support while Kentucky ones historically have not.

According to our media partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer, a Florence state representative has introduced a bill to increase the state’s gas tax. The bill does not specifically say what the increase would go toward. The bill would set a base tax rate of about 34 cents per gallon. Currently, it’s 26 cents per gallon.

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