Northern Kentucky officials are pushing state lawmakers to consider tolls and other options to pay for the $2.6 billion Brent Spence Bridge renovation project.
Brent Cooper is the interim director of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. He told a joint state government committee on transportation that all options, including tolls and public-private partnerships, should be considered to pay for the project.
“The states that are building roads and bridges are attracting jobs, they’re growing their economies," said Cooper. "It’s not lost on many of us that we just, the announcement that we’re losing some of our Toyota employees down to Texas where, by the way, there are tolls everywhere. I think we need to recognize that building roads and bridges is something necessary for our economy.”
Cooper supports any means necessary -- be it tolling or public-private partnerships -- to fund the project which he says has importance not just to his region, but to the state and the nation.
"The Brent Spence bridge project isn’t just unique to Northern Kentucky’s needs," said Cooper. "It has an economic nexus to the entire state. I know I’ve heard comments saying ‘well, that’s Northern Kentucky’s problem.’ Folks, I’m telling you, it is not. Ninety-percent of Toyota’s supply chain crosses that bridge. 700 trucks a day. It is not just Northern Kentucky.”
But Rep. Arnold Simpson (D-Covington) says proposals by U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, as well as Alison Lundergan Grimes, should be studied because, he argues, it’s the federal government’s job.
“Let’s see how that plays out," said Simposon. "Hopefully Washington will recognize that it is their inherent responsibility to address projects, particularly projects of this magnitude, that you’re correct: That not impacts Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati, and Kentucky, but the nation.”
Lawmakers also say they're still looking at ways to mitigate the effects of tolling from the Ohio River Bridges Project on low-income residents. Louisville Rep. Jim Wayne introduced a bill that would provide a tax credit toward this end during this year's session, but his bill died in committee.
An effort to pass public-private partnership legislation was successful this year, but was vetoed by Gov. Steve Beshear over an amendment that would have prohibited tolls from paying for the Brent Spence bridge.