No-tolls pledge a ‘win’ for City, region

Flanked by their chief transportation advisers, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, seated at left, and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear sign the Brent Spence Bridge project agreement. That’s Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks at far left, and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Sec. Jim Gray at far right.

City praises Beshear, DeWine after joint Brent Spence announcement

COVINGTON, Ky. – A “win” for Covington and the entire region.

That’s what City of Covington officials said after Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and his Ohio counterpart, Mike DeWine, pledged today to solve the Brent Spence Bridge problem without using tolls. The governors also promised to continue working to address concerns raised by Covington about the project’s size and potential negative impact.

The governors spoke at a joint press conference at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington attended by legislative leaders and transportation officials from both states, as well as an array of local officials like Covington City Manager Ken Smith.

“Covington is thrilled by what it heard today,” Mayor Joe Meyer said. “Governors Beshear and DeWine again reiterated their intention to move forward on a long-term solution to the Brent Spence bottleneck that will not include tolls. And Gov. Beshear again expressed his sincere desire to right-size the project and mitigate any potential negative impact on Covington’s historic neighborhoods and business districts and the Suspension Bridge. Those are huge wins.”

Meyer was interviewed by a half-dozen TV stations and print outlets after the press conference, given Covington’s vocal lobbying over the last few years on tolls and other issues. (See HERE for an op-ed signed by the Covington Board of Commissioners in March 2021).

The purpose of the governors’ press conference was to sign a memorandum of understanding in which the two states agreed to work together to obtain federal funding for the $2.8 billion project, which will include upgrades to the current bridge, construction of a companion bridge, and improvements to highway approaches.

Beshear said the states would apply for $2 billion from bridge funds included in a $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan passed by Congress as soon as federal application guidelines are released. He said he hoped to break ground as early as next year.

The bridge carries Interstates 71-75 over the Ohio River between Covington and Cincinnati and is a critical route not only for local commuters but also for interstate travelers and national commerce. But traffic is double what the bridge was built to handle, and the span is known nationally for gridlock and accidents.

Beshear addressed Covington directly in his remarks: “We will continue to look for opportunities to reduce costs and the footprint of the project and to engage our communities – Mayor Meyer, I wanted to say that punctually – to engage our local communities.”

Meyer said he was reassured by those comments.

“Given that Frankfort listened to us on tolls and continues to hear our other concerns, I think they will do whatever they can to minimize the harmful impact to the quality of life of our residents and businesses,” the mayor said. “This is an evolving process.”

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