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Tolling Points

Tolling Helps Kentucky, Ohio Fund the Brent Spence Bridge

By: 
Bill Cramer

When an infrastructure project is large and complex, it can take months or years to put together the plan, the financing, and the political will to turn an urgent need into a finished road, bridge, or tunnel.

That’s why it was such big news last week when Kentucky and Ohio announced their plan to split the $2.63-billion cost of repairing the existing Brent Spence Bridge and financing part of the construction of a new bridge.

It will take “bold leadership and determination” from Governors Steve Beshear (KY) and John Kasich (OH) to pull the project across the finish line, said IBTTA CEO and Executive Director Patrick Jones. By the time the plan was finalized:

  • Beshear had worked long and hard to make the case that “there’s not a major bridge project in the country that doesn’t involve the use of tolls and other creative financing mechanisms,” as he told the New York Times almost two years ago.
  • Ohio had passed legislation to allow electronic tolling on the bridge.
  • A public-private partnership (P3) bill was expected to be introduced in the Kentucky legislature as early as this week.
  • The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments was attaching new urgency to project approval.
  • The Build Our New Bridges Now business coalition was pushing hard for timely completion of the new bridge.

It took a community to get the job done. And it took tolling to put a viable business plan behind all of that shared intention. In remarks last Wednesday, both governors pointed to toll financing as an essential piece of the puzzle. "We will need both tolls and gas tax dollars," Beshear told a news conference.

The Brent Spence decision is the latest proof that states can get farther, faster with their highway infrastructure programs when they have the flexibility to include tolling in the funding mix. "With this decision, it is clear that Kentucky and Ohio recognize the importance of using tolling to build a transportation system that paves the way for better jobs, better wages and a better life for Americans,” Jones said.

He pointed to Ohio and Kentucky as two states, one with a democratic governor and one with a republican governor, that are “leading the way in providing efficient solutions to satisfy their own transportation needs.”

“IBTTA asks Congress to build on Ohio’s and Kentucky’s progress today to finance these two projects, and provide states with greater flexibility to meet their individual transportation funding needs—including the right to toll existing Interstate highways for the purpose of reconstruction,” he added. “And we urge Congress to fund a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill this year.”

 

To learn more about IBTTA’s legislative policies and how Congress is working on transportation funding, register today for IBTTA’s Washington Briefing, March 29-31, 2015 in Washington, DC.

photo credit: Brent Spence via photopin (license)

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