Bevin takes stronger stance on need for new Brent Spence Bridge

Cincinnati.com
By Scott Wartman
October 25, 2017

Gov. Matt Bevin on Wednesday took his strongest stance yet on the need to build a new Brent Spence Bridge. During a speech in Erlanger, Bevin said he doesn’t see a proposed bypass as solving the region’s most pressing infrastructure problem by itself. It will require both a bypass and a new bridge. “The bypasses will only alleviate a small percentage of the problem,” Bevin said, ”and are in and of themselves not a solution that some would have perhaps hoped them to be.” Bevin has not before said so boldly that a new bridge is needed. Since taking office in December 2015, Bevin has taken a measured approach about replacing the Brent Spence Bridge, describing himself as “agnostic” on the issue and urging more study. The 54-year-old bridge, deemed functionally obsolete by the government, carries more than double the traffic it was designed for on one of the country’s most vital transportation corridors, Interstate 71/75.

An alternative some have proposed to the $2.6 billion Brent Spence Bridge renovation and replacement has been the Eastern Bypass. This would be a highway running east and west through the southern portion of Northern Kentucky into Ohio. Transportation officials have decried this plan as unfeasible, costing $5 billion. Bevin said the bypass is needed, but won’t solve the problem of an overused and outdated Brent Spence Bridge. “I do think we need to look at both,” Bevin said. “We need to fix the Brent Spence corridor and build a new bridge, and we also need to build a bypass, because we need to be looking not just three to five years into the future, but 20-50 years into the future.” A highway through the southern portion of Northern Kentucky would bring massive economic development to what has been a rural region, he said. “Northern Kentucky/ Cincinnati is going to explode, it really is,” Bevin said.

It appeared information from a $2 million study on the Eastern Bypass commissioned by Bevin might have swayed him on the need for a new bridge. Transportation officials have said the report will be finished and released by the end of the year. But some of that information has already been talked about and shared with state officials, Bevin told reporters Wednesday. I’m very pleased with the progress that has been made in terms of dialogue,” Bevin said. If Bevin had a plan to pay for the $2.6 billion bridge project, he didn’t share it on Wednesday.

As for tolls, they have to be part of the discussion, Bevin said. Bevin said he’d prefer to not have the bridge tolled, but they shouldn’t be ruled out. The Kentucky General Assembly in 2016 passed legislation that banned tolls on the Brent Spence Bridge. Bevin signed that bill into law. The General Assembly, however, can amend that, Bevin said. ”Everything is on the table,” Bevin said. “It doesn’t mean that’s going to be done. But to not talk about every option would be foolish.”

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