Friday, March 14, 2003

Request would replace Brent Spence

Ky. congressmen to seek $502M in federal money today for new bridge

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Kentucky's congressional delegation today will file its official application for federal money for the Brent Spence Bridge project, making a major change in how much it is seeking.

The contingent, which includes Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Southgate, and Rep. Ken Lucas, D-Richwood, is now asking for what some estimates say would pay for the full replacement of the 39-year-old bridge.

In a signed letter to the chairman of the Environment and Public Works committee in the Senate, the Kentucky delegation asks for $100 million immediately to cover design, environmental studies, and utility relocation.

Then the group asks for another $67 million to be set aside in each of the next six years.

Previously, those seeking money for the bridge, including area business and political leaders, said they would ask for $90 million upfront, with $40 million a year to be set aside over six years.

"The goal is to get this all done within the one six-year reauthorization," Bunning spokesman Mike Reynard said Thursday. "We know it's going to be an uphill battle, but the senator is going to do everything he can to see that it gets done."

A 30-month study of the bridge and the best options for replacement or renovation has just begun. Some previous studies have said the bridge has less than 15 years of structural integrity left.

In addition, the Brent Spence, which connects Interstates 71 and 75 across the Ohio River, is a major traffic chokepoint and safety hazard.

It was originally designed to handle 80,000 vehicles daily, and a later redesign raised that number to about 110,000. It currently handles 140,000-plus vehicles a day.

The letter is part of an application that is due today if the Brent Spence is to be considered in the renewal of the six-year law that authorizes major transportation projects.

The new proposal would set aside $502 million total. Preliminary estimates put the cost of replacing the bridge at $500 million, meaning that Kentucky and Ohio - both facing severe budget problems - could possibly avoid having to come up with any matching funds.

The project has also gotten support from Ohio congressmen, including Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio..


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