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New Ohio-Ky. bridge is discussed

COVINGTON — A two-state report addressing traffic congestion on an Ohio River bridge that connects Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky is due next month.

It will consider options on building a new bridge to supplement the Brent Spence Bridge. The 45-year-old span is handling 150,000 cars and trucks a day, more than twice the amount for which it was designed.

Drivers in both states are routinely hit with long lines of slow-moving or stopped traffic on the bridge at rush hour.

The report will make a case for a $3 billion bridge to ease congestion along the busy Interstate 75/71 corridor. It could take a decade to complete the new structure.

The Kentucky Enquirer reported that under an option preferred by many Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky leaders, the new span would essentially supplement the existing Brent Spence Bridge, splitting the heavy volume of cross-river traffic between the two bridges.

It would be built immediately west of the existing one, a plan that local officials say could cut costs and expedite its construction.

"The encouraging thing is that, regionally, we're increasingly speaking with more and more of a unified voice on this," said Cincinnati City Councilwoman Roxanne Qualls, who chairs the council's subcommittee on transportation and infrastructure. "Now we have to make sure that that unified voice is heard in Washington, Columbus and Frankfort."

Local leaders remain concerned about federal officials' interest in routing the new span through the Queensgate neighborhood in Cincinnati.

The federal government is expected to provide about two-thirds of the funding and will have the final say on the route, timetable and cost of the project.

Despite disdain from local leaders for the Queensgate option, federal officials have requested more information about that possibility as the report is being compiled.

Local leaders have said the Queensgate route and other alternative routes could undercut Cincinnati's plans for development in Queensgate and leave Covington with no direct southbound access from the new bridge.

"Queensgate is not a serious alternative for anyone here, but we haven't driven a stake through its heart yet," Hamilton County, Ohio, Commissioner Todd Portune said. "That's a concern."

Cincinnati hopes to preserve Queensgate, a neighborhood just west of downtown, for economic development; Covington officials complain a Queensgate route would curtail access to their city.

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