COVINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 12, 2012) – Tolls will be some portion of the funding formula in financing a new or enhanced Brent Spence Bridge across the Ohio River from Northern Kentucky into Cincinnati, with hopes construction will begin in 2014, the governors of the two states said Wednesday as they signed a deal to work quickly and cooperatively on funding plan.
In a display of bipartisan leadership, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed an agreement that describes in broad terms how their two states will cooperatively build a new I-75 and I-71 bridge over the Ohio River. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joined the governors for the landmark announcement at the 360 Restaurant atop the Radisson Hotel in Covington overlooking the existing Brent Spence Bridge.
While the exact structure type is still to be determined, the selected roadway alternative for the long-awaited bridge is a two-deck span that would carry all of Interstate 75, plus southbound lanes of I-71 and three southbound lanes of local traffic. It would be adjacent to, and greatly reduce the load now being shouldered by the Brent Spence Bridge.
Speaking at the announcement event, the governors said that tolls would be part of the overall funding formula, as they have been for all other recent major bridge projects in the United States, including the Ohio River Bridges Project in Louisville. There is no magic pot of federal money available to pay for a large project such as this one in which early estimates place the cost at $2.6 billion.
However, the two states and their governors are likely to benefit from the current economic environment in which contractors are competing hard for work. Kentucky recently awarded the contract for the Downtown Connection bridge in Louisville to Walsh Construction of Chicago whose bid was $90 million less than the state Transportation Cabinet had estimated and calls for completion a year and a half sooner than estimated.
“Working together, our two states have made excellent progress toward a long-awaited solution for the commercial and commuter bottleneck that the Brent Spence Bridge has become,” said Beshear. “Gov. Kasich and I both recognize, and are in full agreement, that a second bridge is an absolute necessity. This agreement reflects our resolve to see it become reality.”
“The businesses and citizens that use the bridge every day need relief from gridlock today – not 30 years from now,” said Kasich. “I look forward to working closely with Gov. Beshear to make a real change and deliver the Brent Spence Bridge quickly.”
The two-deck Brent Spence, which opened on Nov. 25, 1963, today carries the entire load of both I-71 and I-75 and two-way local traffic. Though structurally sound, it is classified as “functionally obsolete” because of its narrow lanes, absence of emergency shoulders and limited visibility on its lower deck.
Under the selected alternative design, the Brent Spence would undergo renovation and remain in service to carry two northbound lanes of I-71 on its upper deck and three lanes of northbound local traffic on its lower deck.
Kentucky and Ohio already have made significant strides toward realization of a new bridge. Preliminary design work has been completed, as has a federally required environmental assessment that resulted in a “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI) by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in August 2012.
The Memorandum of Agreement signed by Governors Beshear and Kasich outlines remaining duties and responsibilities of each state.
• The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) and Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) will formally establish a Bi-State Management Team to jointly oversee the project.
• The team will be responsible for evaluating procurement options, preparing a Major Project Initial Financial Plan required by FHWA, procuring professional services when needed, maintaining a project website and managing public relations.
• KYTC and ODOT will be jointly responsible for costs associated with the investigation of project procurement options.
• Work performed in Ohio under the agreement will be governed by the laws of Ohio. Work performed in Kentucky will be governed by the laws of the Commonwealth.
The signing of the agreement was the latest example of the way in which Beshear and Kasich have worked together in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation.
In 2011, the two governors joined forces in the fight against the proliferation of “pill mills” and the illicit traffic in prescription narcotics. In May 2012, Beshear was Kasich’s guest at a ground breaking in Ironton, Ohio, for a new bridge ODOT is constructing between Ironton and Russell, Ky.