BRADENTON, Fla. – Kentucky and Ohio released a study Thursday detailing options for jointly building and funding a new bridge across the Ohio River between Covington, Ky. and Cincinnati, which is part of a project estimated to cost as much as $2.9 billion.

The plan also involves renovating the two-deck, 50-year-old Brent Spence Bridge, which officials say is structurally sound but classified as “functionally obsolete” because of its narrow lanes, lack of emergency shoulders and limited visibility on the lower deck.

Consultants HNTB examined four procurement methods but the states concluded that two models represented the most “attractive” potential options for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Ohio Department of Transportation, according to the study.

One approach, called design-build, would require the selection of a contractor and public financing potentially through a combination of state and federal funding, loans, and bonds.

The second approach would be an availability payment scheme in a public-private partnership where a contractor finances and builds the project, and is repaid on a regular schedule over many years.

The study also discusses the use of tolls, though Kentucky would need legislative approval to institute tolls on a project with Ohio.

For the Bluegrass state to use the availability payment option, lawmakers also would need to revise state transportation laws and authorize the use of P3s.

In July, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce released a white paper recommending that the state enact legislation enabling the use of P3s on a wide range of infrastructure projects at all levels of government.

Kentucky chose a traditional design-build approach to do its half of the $2.6 billion Ohio River Bridges Project with Indiana, in part because a full-scale P3 would have required legislation to accomplish it.

Indiana, which had prior experience with major transportation P3s, selected a public-private partnership do to its half of the Ohio River Project.

For the Brent Spence project, Ohio could opt for the P3 model because it already has enabling legislation. The state began work on its first project in late 2012 to build a bridge in downtown Cleveland.

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