Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear wielded his veto stamp for a bill that would have prohibited charging tolls to cross the Brent Spence Bridge.
The governor vetoed a bill that authorized private financing of public projects around the state. However, a provision later attached to HB407 prohibited tolls on any interstate project that connects Kentucky and Ohio.
Beshear said in his veto message it was a bad idea to eliminate any funding options for the project to replace the bridge that carries Interstates 71 and 75 into Cincinnati. He wanted to use the law to help pay for the $2.6 billion replacement and renovation project.
“It is imprudent to eliminate any potential means of financing construction of such a vital piece of infrastructure that serves not only the Commonwealth and the state of Ohio, but also the eastern United States,” Beshear wrote.
He added that the bill “encumbers an otherwise well-intentioned policy measure with unnecessary elements relating to a single, near term project, which should not be enshrined into permanent law.”
Officials on both sides of the state line tout a public-private partnership as the best way to replace the bridge. The existing structure is toll free.
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.
Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington, said he added the provision to exclude the Brent Spence Bridge because 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 that carries Interstate 65.
Any attempt to apply tolls to the Brent Spence Bridge or other roadways and bridges will have to wait. The General Assembly must approve a bill to permit tolls.
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