COVINGTON — Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear agreed on Wednesday to create a bi-state management team that will investigate funding options to replace the nearly 50-year-old Brent Spence Bridge at a cost of more than $2 billion.
The heavily used bridge carries Interstate 71 traffic between the two states over the Ohio River and is considered obsolete. The Brent Spence handles more than twice the amount of traffic as was originally intended when it opened in 1963. Preliminary estimates for replacing the bridge run more than $2.6 billion.
"This is a meaningful step forward on one of the most pressing quality-of-life and economic issues in this region," Beshear said.
Said Kasich: "There's not going to be any nonsense here — we're just going to get this done. This is really important for Kentucky, it's important for Ohio and it's critical for America to keep things moving through."
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The two governors were joined by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and all three said that charging tolls would need to be a part of any financing plan.
"Uncle Sam is not coming in on a white horse to pay for all of this. Those days don't exist anymore," Beshear said. "We need to find all kinds of sources."
Beshear and Kasich stressed that tolls would be in place only for as long as needed to pay off any bonds to build the bridge but added that could take decades. They said it was too soon to say how tolls could be collected or what individual tolls might cost.
LaHood said that major bridge projects nationally now include some sort of tolls, a departure from previous federal policy that frowned upon charging travelers along federal interstate highways.