COVINGTON – Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear was spot on Wednesday when he told a Northern Kentucky audience that opponents of the effort to replace the Brent Spence Bridge continue to spew misinformation and propaganda about the project.
Here are just a few of the more blatant examples of misinformation being spread by opponents about the region’s most important infrastructure project that is now estimated to cost more than $2.7 billion (a cost that continues to grow each day its not built), followed by actual facts about the project.
Misinformation: The bridge project includes a total of 21 lanes, which bridge opponents say would have a “horrible impact” on Covington.
Fact: According to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the replacement project will result in construction of 11 new lanes for a total of 16 lanes on the new and existing bridge. Building a new span along and significantly revamping the existing bridge will enhance access to Covington, increase the flow of traffic through the bridge corridor, and dramatically improve safety.
Misinformation: In 2014, the Kentucky General Assembly allocated $750 million for expansion of the Mountain Parkway in eastern Kentucky, which opponents use as an example of the legislature placing a higher priority on that project over the Brent Spence Bridge.
Fact: Legislators only allocated $110 million over the next two years to the Mountain Parkway expansion. Additional funding is needed, with some of it likely to come from tolling. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Ohio Department of Transportation already have collectively incurred more than $150 million in costs on the Brent Spence Bridge project, primarily for preliminary engineering and design work and right of way and utilities.
Misinformation: We can wait and why we need to build the new bridge now?
Fact: As Gov. Beshear reported Wednesday at the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Government Forum, the cost of the bridge project increases $7 million a month due to inflation and added project costs. That’s about $233,000 a day, $84 million a year, and nearly $1 billion more if the project is delayed another decade.
“We can’t afford to wait,” the Gov. Beshear told the audience. “Seven million dollars a month is too high a price to pay for politics, for procrastination or for indecision. We’ve got to act aggressively this coming year to move ahead with this project to build the Brent Spence Bridge.”
Misinformation: The bridge is safe. One of the project’s most vocal critics – Covington City Commissioner Steve Frank – recently told The River City News that the bridge is not dangerous.
Fact: In a May 2012 letter to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Frank wrote that he is “very familiar with the need to do something about the bridge as it is our Police and Firemen from the City of Covington who must risk their lives on the Brent Spence Bridge both rescuing stranded motorists as well as investigating their demise when the all too frequent fatalities occur.”
In addition, a study by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Ohio Department of Transportation found that motorists are three to five times more likely to have an accident within the bridge corridor than on any other portion of the interstate highway system in Ohio or Kentucky.
Misinformation: Congress will fund the majority of this project.
Fact: In just the past several weeks, Congress soundly rejected two proposals to generate funding for major infrastructure projects, such as the Brent Spence Bridge replacement: 1) rejecting an increase in the federal gas tax; and 2) rejecting a return of budget “earmarks,” which were targeted allocations of major funding for federal infrastructure and other projects. Congress eliminated earmarks two years ago.
“Opponents of the Brent Spence Bridge replacement project will apparently say just about anything about the project, even if it’s not true,” said Matt Davis, director of the Build Our New Bridge coalition, a broad-based coalition of large and small businesses, elected officials, individuals, labor leaders, and organizations advocating for the new bridge.
“People who drive the bridge everyday know it is unsafe, overcrowded, inefficient, and needs to be replaced,” Davis said. “To say or suggest otherwise is simply not true.”
The 50-year-old Brent Spence Bridge is an unsafe, overcrowded span that carries more than 172,000 vehicles a day, more than double the capacity it was built to accommodate. Each day, 30,000 trucks carry more than $1 billion in freight across the bridge. Daily backups on the bridge contribute to gridlock, lost productivity, and dangerous, time-consuming commutes.
Further delays mean that every day we wait for a federal handout that is never coming is another day 215,000 people travel across an outdated, overcrowded, and unsafe bridge.