Kentucky lawmakers nix Brent Spence Bridge toll plans

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/2/2014

Truckers and other drivers traveling through northern Kentucky do not have to concern themselves with paying tolls to cross the Brent Spence Bridge.

The House voted 86-9 to agree to changes in a bill that would authorize private funding of public projects around the state. However, a provision added to the bill prohibits adding tolls on any interstate project that connects Kentucky and Ohio.

HB407 now heads to Gov. Steve Beshear’s desk. The Senate already approved the bill on a 27-9 vote.

Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington, added a provision in the House that would exclude tolls on the Brent Spence Bridge to pay for the $2.6 billion replacement and renovation project.

Officials on both sides of the state line tout a public-private partnership as the best way to replace the Interstate 75 bridge connecting northern Kentucky with Cincinnati. The existing structure is toll free.

Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said during a recent hearing on HB407 that public-private partnerships would be another option to get needed transportation work done around the state.

“It’s a tool in my tool kit that I don’t currently have,” Hancock testified. “We have multiple projects that perhaps could benefit from this legislation.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes the conversion of toll-free interstate roads and bridges into tolled facilities. OOIDA also strongly opposes the lease or sale of existing public roadways to private investors.

Simpson said he wants to take a “wait-and-see” approach to tolls in northern Kentucky. First, he wants to see what happens in Louisville with the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Preliminary plans put toll rates at $1 for commuters, $2 for other motorists, and $10 to $12 for large trucks. The rates will be charged on two new bridge spans under construction and the existing span.

The governor hasn’t indicated whether he’ll sign HB407, but any attempt to apply tolls to the Brent Spence Bridge will have to wait. The General Assembly must approve a bill to permit tolls on the span.

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