The Ohio Senate voted unanimously on Wednesday, June 4, to send a bill to the governor that would use toll taxes to pay off reconstruction of the Brent Spence Bridge. House lawmakers already approved the bill on an 86-7 vote.
Once the bill is signed into law by Gov. John Kasich, HB533 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.
Rep. 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.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is opposed to the toll bill. The Association has sent Calls to Action to Ohio truckers and communicated with state lawmakers conveying the concerns of professional truckers.
OOIDA Director of State Legislative Affairs Mike Matousek said he pointed out to House and Senate lawmakers that 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.
Despite the opposition of professional truckers, officials on both sides of the state line tout a public-private partnership as the best way to replace the bridge, which 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 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 on the existing span.
Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jerry Wray said he was pleased to see the General Assembly approved the bill.
“This is another great step towards building a new Brent Spence Bridge,” Wray said in a news release. “We appreciate their support and we look forward to continuing to work with our partners, both here in Ohio and in Kentucky, to move towards making a new bridge a reality.”
Kentucky has not approved authorization of a public-private partnership for the $2.6 billion replacement and renovation project. The issue is likely to be brought up for consideration during the 2015 regular session.
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