Ohio bill would add tolls to Brent Spence Bridge

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 5/9/2014

Truckers and other highway users are watching a new Ohio bill that could expand tolling in the state.

Reps. Ross McGregor, R-Springfield, and Dale Mallory, D-Cincinnati, have teamed to offer a bill that would authorize the state to enter into an agreement with Kentucky and a private group to construct, operate and finance Ohio’s segment of the Brent Spence Bridge.

The Ohio bill could also open the door to other bridge deals throughout the state. HB533 awaits consideration in the House Finance and Appropriations Committee.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is on the record as opposing the bill. The Association this week sent a Call to Action to Ohio truckers and submitted a letter to Ohio House lawmakers conveying the concerns of professional truckers.

OOIDA Director of State Legislative Affairs Mike Matousek said he pointed out to lawmakers this type of agreement would impose a new tax on all highway users. As a result, it would restrict mobility, divert traffic, and increase commuting costs for families and businesses.

Matousek said that OOIDA supports investments into transportation infrastructure.

“If more revenue is required, increasing the fuel tax is the most equitable and efficient option, so long as the generated revenue is used for its intended purpose,” he said.

Officials on both sides of the state line tout a public-private partnership as the best way to replace the bridge that carries Interstates 71 and 75 into northern Kentucky. The existing structure is toll free.

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.

Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jerry Wray said in a news release that HB533 “will help us move forward with the revitalization of this heavily traveled corridor while improving accessibility and safety.”

He also said that passage of the bill would allow the state to continue to work with Kentucky to get “shovels in the ground as quickly as we can.”

However, movement on the issue has stalled in Kentucky. Gov. Steve Beshear recently wielded his veto stamp for a bill that forbids charging tolls to cross the 51-year-old structure.

The governor vetoed a bill that 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 replacement and renovation project that carries a $2.6 billion price tag.

Any attempt to authorize tolls will need to wait until next year. The Kentucky General Assembly must approve a bill to apply tolls to the bridge.

Copyright © OOIDA