Ohio legislators: Bill would speed up new Brent Spence work

Ohio legislators: Bill would speed up new Brent Spence work
The Brent Spence Bridge. FOX19 file photo
The Brent Spence Bridge. FOX19 file photo

COLUMBUS, OH (FOX19) - A new bill announced by Ohio lawmakers Tuesday would speed up replacing the Brent Spence Bridge, and pay for it with tolls.

Several local lawmakers are backing this new legislation which, they say, is a must to get the $2.6 billion dollar project moving along.

It would pave the way for a new bridge to be built next to the current structure at 71-75 over the Ohio River.

The bill would allow commuters to pay tolls using a transponder that would track the number of times they cross the bridge. Drivers without one would get a bill in the mail for trips across the river which would be tracked via license plate photos.

Tuesday, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber announced its support for the legislation. The chamber said it's the first time it has taken a position on Ohio tolling legislation and the relationship to the bridge.

More than 172,000 vehicles cross this bridge every day, but before a new one is built, leaders in both Kentucky and Ohio have to decide if tolls are the best option.

"We need to get moving on this," said Ohio Senator Eric Kearney.

There are 38 major expressways in the country that utilize tolls, and Ohio Senator Eric Kearney says it's something the tri state needs to get used to.

"There are more coming to Texas, more coming to states like Florida so this is the way that highways are being financed now," said Kearney.

Kearney says traffic will be reduced by 80 percent once this new bridge is in place.

"Every month that we wait I think that it costs us approximately $100 million, that's a lot of money so we need to do it now," said Kearney.

But not everyone thinks tolls are the answer. Jackie Schultz works at Liquor City in Covington. She says even though there's delays on the Brent Spence now, she thinks tolls will only add more congestion to other parts of Northern Kentucky.

"If they're adding tolls it's just going to bring people to other bridges and it's really going to congest and bring more traffic," said Schultz.

Kearney says without tolls, this project could be pushed back years and many worry that's not good for the local economy.

"This is third in terms of the good and services that travel over the Brent Spence Bridge over a year so it's very important to commerce," said Kearney.

Several Northern Kentucky residents agree a new bridge is needed, but many including Schultz say tolls will affect all the people that live on one side of the river and work on the other.

"This is our money to fend for our families so budget my money a little more because that's more money coming out of my pockets for these tolls," said Schultz.

The Bluegrass State is the other piece of this puzzle. Kentucky's legislature adjourned for the year without passing legislation to allow private financing on roads and bridges.

Ohio lawmakers hope passing their bill will help speed up the process.

Sponsors of the bill hope this legislation will pass by the end of the month.

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