Kentucky bill would aid Brent Spence Bridge privatization effort

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, February 20, 2015

State lawmakers in Kentucky this year will revisit an effort to authorize private funding for public projects, including the Brent Spence Bridge project.

Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, is the lead sponsor of the bill to permit the state to work together with private groups to get needed road and bridge work done. She is one of 10 House Democrats to attach their names to the bill.

State lawmakers approved a similar effort one year ago after a provision was added by Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington, to prohibit adding tolls on any interstate project that connects Kentucky and Ohio. Simpson said at the time he preferred to take a “wait-and-see” approach to tolls in northern Kentucky.

However, Gov. Steve Beshear vetoed the bill. The Democratic governor 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. The existing structure is toll free.

This year’s version, HB443, includes a provision that would require approval of a joint resolution by the Kentucky Legislature for partnerships that involve projects with the state of Ohio.

Open to traffic in 1963, the Brent Spence Bridge carries twice as many vehicles per day as it was designed to accommodate. Today, it is used to transport $417 billion worth of goods each year.

The replacement and renovation project has a price tag of $2.6 billion. Kentucky and Ohio must enact laws authorizing public-private partnerships to move forward with plans to privatize the Brent Spence Bridge.

In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich signed a bill into law one year ago authorizing toll taxes to pay off reconstruction of the state’s portion of the bridge.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is opposed to toll plans. The Association has sent multiple Calls to Action to truckers in both states and communicated with state lawmakers conveying the concerns of professional truckers.

OOIDA Director of State Legislative Affairs Mike Matousek has said imposing a new tax on all highway users 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.

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