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Group working for Covington bridge

COVINGTON — Officials in Northern Kentucky and southwest Ohio are hoping to give the government a little push to swiftly replace the outdated and overwhelmed Brent Spence Bridge.

The group, dubbed "The Bridge Builders," is comprised of officials from the Cincinnati area who got together at the urging of U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky.

The Kentucky Enquirer reports the group's goal is "to accelerate the selection of a recommended preferred alternative for the new" Brent Spence Bridge, according to a statement from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments.

The bridge, which connects Covington with Cincinnati, hasn't been able to accommodate the population increase in the area.

The group will gather information for federal officials who will decide the timetable, cost and route of the project. It could cost up to $3 billion, and construction might not start for 10 years.

Officials don't want to wait that long.

"With the information we collect and provide, we can hopefully knock off a couple of years on the planning process," said Campbell County Judge-Executive Steve Pendery, a group member.

But officials are nervous about having the bridge put a dent into the potentially profitable Queensgate neighborhood just west of Cincinnati's downtown.

"The project has the potential to take up a huge amount of space," said Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Bortz. "It is going through a pretty tight urban area, and we want to help make sure we maximize the available land."

That means making sure the new bridge avoids Queensgate.

"It has the largest footprint and would leave Covington with no direct southbound access to the city," said Covington City Commissioner Steve Megerle. "Our city staff estimates that (building in Queensgate) would lead to a $22.5 million loss in property values and an unquantifiable indirect economic loss."

The new bridge would help ease financial pressure on the area. Officials estimate replacing the bridge would save the area $684 million in shipping costs by decreasing traffic congestion. And it would save an estimated $51 million worth of drivers' time.