BRADENTON, Fla. - The governors of Kentucky and Ohio plan to lower the cost of the Brent Spence Bridge project in order to move the long-planned, bi-state venture forward.
Kentucky's Gov. Steve Beshear and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio said Jan. 28 that they have ordered consultants to find design changes to lower the $2.6 billion construction cost of the new bridge and renovation project. With financing, interest, operations, and maintenance the total project cost is estimated at $3.57 billion.
The bridge carries Interstates 75 and 71 across the Ohio River between Cincinnati and northern Kentucky, and is a busy commuting and shipping corridor.
A cost-saving plan will be developed by March 30, and a financial plan will be prepared before the year ends in order to accelerate the project, Beshear and Kasich said.
The two states plan to use a public-private partnership to finance the toll-bridge project, which has been in development since 2000 due to severe congestion and the age of the 51-year-old double-deck bridge. Funding is expected to come primarily from tolls and state revenues. The tolls are expected to be leveraged through capital market financing and a federal low-interest loan from the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program.
The project has stalled due to its cost, opposition to tolls, and because Kentucky, which holds title to the bridge, doesn't have enabling P3 legislation for transportation. Beshear vetoed a P3 bill that passed last year because it prohibited the use of tolls on the Brent Spence project.
Beshear plans to back another P3 bill during this year's session, which began Jan. 6, though legislation has yet to be filed, said Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe.
In addition to cutting project costs, Kasich and Beshear also said in their Jan. 28 announcement that the two states would split the cost of the project and the toll revenues, and that frequent commuters would get a 50% discount in toll rates.
They said inflation costs are driving up the project's price tag by $7 million every month.
"We simply cannot afford more delay, distraction, and gridlock on the interstate or in the halls of government," Beshear said. "The Brent Spence Bridge corridor must be expanded to meet the safety and mobility needs of a growing, prosperous region."
Kasich said, "Without funding for the Brent Spence Bridge, commerce and safety will suffer and we can't have that. Our continued cooperation will help make this project a reality and keep it moving forward quickly."
The Brent Spence cost-reduction plan is similar to the approach that Kentucky and Indiana used to accelerate the Ohio River Bridges Project, which was once estimated to cost $4.1 billion and includes two new bridges between Louisville and southern Indiana.
Beshear and then-Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels ordered consultants to find ways to cut spending to $2.3 billion, and the project was split between the states. The new bridges under construction and slated to open in 2016.
The Brent Spence project is currently envisioned as a single procurement, according to Wolfe.