Ohio House approves adding tolls to Brent Spence Bridge

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 5/23/2014

An effort halfway through the Ohio statehouse would use tolls to pay for the reconstruction of the Brent Spence Bridge.

The House voted 86-7 this week to send a bill to the Senate 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 bridge that carries Interstates 71 and 75 into northern Kentucky.

Reps. Ross McGregor, R-Springfield, said replacement of the 51-year-old structure is necessary to help move more than twice as many vehicles per day as the bridge was built to safely accommodate.

“Building a new bridge and eliminating the backups and congestion that exist today will allow our business owners to save money and hire more people,” McGregor said in a news release.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is on the record as opposing the bill. The Association sent a Call to Action to Ohio truckers and submitted letters to Ohio House and Senate 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.

“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,” Matousek said.

Officials on both sides of the state line tout a public-private partnership to replace the bridge that is used to transport $417 billion worth of goods each year. The existing structure is toll free.

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

Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jerry Wray stated 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.”

Kentucky would also need to approve authorization of a public-private partnership for the $2.6 billion replacement and renovation project.

A change made to HB533 dropped inclusion of other bridge deals throughout the state.

The bill awaits assignment to committee in the Senate.

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