Optimism grows to fix traffic woes at Ohio River bridge
Governor Beshear and Senator McConnell upbeat about prospects for a new bridge
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s Democratic governor and senior Republican senator sounded upbeat Monday about the prospects for a new a bridge to unclog a notoriously congested route between their state and Ohio.
The cross-party optimism stemmed from congressional passage of President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure package last week. It’s seen as the best chance in decades to build a new span over the Ohio River to connect Cincinnati and Kentucky, relieving the aging Brent Spence Bridge.
“I want to get this thing done,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear told reporters. “We’ve talked about it for decades. This is our best opportunity to do it. I want to be the governor that gets this done. What was once viewed as impossible, suddenly now appears to be very possible.”
Speaking in northern Kentucky earlier Monday, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the massive infrastructure measure offers a chance to resolve “long-standing infrastructure problems” across the country. That includes the prominent gateway over the Ohio River into his home state.
“This will be the first time I’ve come up here in a quarter of a century when I thought, maybe there was a way forward on the Brent Spence Bridge,” the Kentucky senator said.
The infrastructure bill was passed largely by Democrats in Congress, though McConnell was among a group of 19 Senate Republican lawmakers to support it. Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman was another key supporter of the infrastructure measure.
The traffic woes along the Brent Spence Bridge — a crucial link for interstate commerce — have been a symbol of the nation’s growing infrastructure needs for decades.
With the federal infrastructure measure now passed, plenty of decisions still need to be made by officials in Kentucky and Ohio to get the long-stalemated bridge project moving.
Beshear said Monday that his administration will work hard to try to win the funding needed to build a new companion bridge to the Brent Spence. Funding support will be requested from a pool of federal money designated for major projects, he said.
“If we are to get a substantial award from there, I believe that we can do this whole project without tolls,” Beshear said. “That is my goal … And this gives us a chance to do what many thought was previously impossible.”
An influx of money coming from the infrastructure bill will lead to projects across the Bluegrass State, the governor said.
Kentucky will receive more than $4.7 billion over five years to repair roads and bridges, he said. Also under the measure, he said, Kentucky will receive:
—$647 million to improve water infrastructure.
—$100 million to expand broadband coverage,
—$391 million for public transportation.
—$204 million to improve airports.
—$69 million to expand the state’s electric vehicle charging network.