The Cost for a New Bridge
Increases Every Second We Wait

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The governors of Ohio and Kentucky are expected to sign by November a memorandum of understanding to jointly develop a Brent Spence Bridge financing plan.

It’s one of several goals identified Tuesday as necessary next steps by Julie Janson, Duke Energy Corp.’s top local official, and founder of the Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition.

Janson, who chairs the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Cincinnati Business Committee, delivered the keynote address to the annual meeting of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments. OKI calls the $2.4 billion bridge replacement the region’s most important infrastructure project.

“We’ve got to get a shovel in the ground no later than 2015,” Janson told the crowd of 350 business leaders and politicians at the Oasis Golf and Conference Center in Loveland. She said the Brent Spence advocacy group has raised more than $1.5 million from 100 member companies. And she said it will cost state, local and federal governments $8 million for every month the bridge is delayed. That’s $100 million in a year and $500 million over five years, she said.

The Brent Spence project involves the construction of a second span to ease congestion and safety problems on Interstates 75 and 71 in Cincinnati and Covington. Ohio and Kentucky have been working on the project for years, but a lack of consensus on local funding options threatens to delay construction.

To break the logjam, Janson said Ohio and Kentucky must come to terms on an memorandum of understanding to cooperate on a “value of money” study.

“The value of money study is going to take a look at the value engineering of the effort, determine the tolerance for tolling and suggest a preliminary financial plan,” Janson said. “That MOU has yet to be signed by Kentucky.”

Rob Hans, chief district engineer with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said Ohio and Kentucky are trading draft documents. He expects a memorandum to signed by Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and Ohio’s John Kasich by November. Hans said Ohio selected downtown Cincinnati-based HNTB Corp. as its preferred vendor for the study.

Janson also called on Kentucky lawmakers to pass legislation allowing the project to be built in a public-private partnership, which could allow bridge tolls and other financing techniques to become part of the project.

“We need the passage of 3P legislation in Kentucky this winter,” Janson said. “Otherwise, Kentucky will stop allocating funding for the project and we’ll be left with the old design, bid build process that will take us years to complete.”

Dan Monk reported for Cincinnati’s Business Courier.


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