Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Opinion

January 21, 2013

Best option?

The Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition, a relatively new organization that is trying to convince leaders in northern Kentucky that private financing would be the best way to speed up the construction of a new Ohio River span to replace the aging Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati, has picked up an important and influential ally: The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

ASHLAND — The Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition, a relatively new organization that is trying to convince leaders in northern Kentucky that private financing would be the best way to speed up the construction of a new Ohio River span to replace the aging Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati, has picked up an important and influential ally: The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Johnna Reeder, who is chairwoman of the coalition, was joined by state transportation officials in Erlanger Tuesday as they recommended the private funding option to area leaders. They said a public-private partnership is the only way to get the $2.4 billion new bridge for the Interstate 71-75 corridor built in a timely fashion.

In fact, with a private-public partnership, proponents have said a new bridge could be built by 2018. Call us skeptics, but under no circumstances can we see the bridge being completed in only five years. Litigation alone could delay the project for that long, and given the history of controversy surrounding the costly new span across the Ohio River between Covington and Cincinnati, officials can expect a multitude of legal efforts to change, delay or even abolish plans to replace an outdated bridge that carries thousands of more vehicles each day that it was designed to handle. Snarled traffic on the bridge during the morning and afternoon rush hours have become the norm and are getting constantly worse.

 Reeder said a private-public partnership is the only realistic way of getting the new bridge built in the foreseeable future. 

“The realistic piece is that there are no more earmarks at the federal government,” Reeder said. “I wish we could go get a federal earmark, but we can’t.”

Opponents have argued the private-public partnership would mean tolls on the bridge, which they adamantly oppose.

Many fear tolls would hurt northern Kentucky residents and businesses. Builder Matt Toebben said he feared tolls would cost northern Kentucky thousands of residents and billions of dollars.

“I don’t want to see northern Kentucky killed off with the stroke of a pen or one mistake,” Toebben said. “I want to see the bridge built. I hope we can build it as quick as possible, but please fight the tolls. ... In northern Kentucky, this toll bridge will hurt us forever. It’s not one year. It’s forever.”

Transportation official Robert Hans says private financing doesn’t necessarily mean tolls. He said other states have used “availability payments” similar to bonds, which means a private company puts up the money initially, but gets it back with interest.

“Without giving us all the tools in the toolbox, it’s going to constrain the possibility of moving the project forward,” Hans said. “It’s the bottom line. We have to look at all options. Tolls may be the best option. Availability payments may be the best option.”

A toll of $1 or less could be a viable option on a new bridge, but anything more than that could be a burden to those who must use the bridge to go to and from work each day. It is one thing to pay a $3 toll to cross a bridge when traveling across the country, but to pay such a high toll twice a day would be a burden.

A private-public partnership eventually may prove to be the best way to speed construction of a new bridge, but right now it is shaping up as yet another obstacle to a new bridge that is badly needed for those of us who live on both sides of the Ohio River.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • By a thread

    It took some last-minute political maneuvering by State Rep. Tanya Pullin, D-South Shore and some skilled wheeling and dealing to prevent a bill important to AK Steel in Ashland from ending up on the scrapheap of the 2014 Kentucky General Assembly.

    April 23, 2014

  • Along the river

    Here’s hoping the weather will be as close to perfect as possible on the evening of May 30, as members of the Paul G. Blazer High School class of 2014 gather on the banks of Ohio River for the school’s first graduation on the river that has helped fuel this community’s economy since the time when it was known as known as Poage’s Landing.

    April 22, 2014

  • Good opportunity

    Morehead State University is using a highly successful program for outstanding high school juniors and seniors at Western Kentucky University to launch a similar program beginning in the fall of 2015 on the MSU campus.

    April 20, 2014

  • What's next?

    While virtually all cities in northeastern Kentucky provide their residents with some utility services — water and sewer, mainly, and sometimes natural gas — to the best of our knowledge, Olive Hill is the only town in the FIVCO region with its own electrical company.
     

    April 13, 2014

  • 'Waited too long'

    Lt. Garlin Murl Conner left the U.S. Army as the second-most decorated soldier during World War II, earning four Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, seven Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during 28 straight months in combat.

    April 12, 2014

  • Enact HB 3

    The National Rx Drug Abuse Summit is under way hundreds of miles from eastern Kentucky in Orlando, Fla., but the three-day conference which runs through Thursday, was organized by Operation UNITE, the eastern Kentucky anti-drug group that knows all too well the devastating impact the prescription drug epidemic continues to have on this region.

    April 11, 2014

  • State officials cease efforts to stop advance of ash borer

    Kentucky’s war against the tiny emerald ash borer responsible for already killing more than 25 million ash trees in the eastern United States has ended in surrender — by state officials, not the tiny insect.

    April 8, 2014

  • Demise of apparel industry in Kentucky continues

    The steady demise of the once thriving clothing industry in small Kentucky towns continues with the latest factory to announce it is shutting down being one of the largest: Fruit of the Loom has announced it is closing its last remaining plant in Jamestown, a move that eventually will see the elimination of more than 600 jobs in the small town near Lake Cumberland.

    April 7, 2014

  • None on ballot

    The 2014 Kentucky General Assembly considered an unusually high number of proposed amendments to the Kentucky Constitution on such issues as casino gambling, the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons and the elimination of state and local elected offices.

    April 4, 2014

  • In Your View

    Letters to the editor

    April 3, 2014