Ohio passes Brent Spence Bridge bill

The passage of Ohio legislation is “another great step towards building a new Brent Spence Bridge”. 

The passage of Ohio legislation that allows all-electric tolling on bridges on Interstates 71 and 75 is “another great step towards building a new Brent Spence Bridge”, the director of the Ohio Department of Transportation said in a statement.

“We’re pleased to hear that the Ohio General Assembly today passed House Bill 533… We appreciate their support and we look forward to continuing to work with our partners, both here in Ohio and in Kentucky, to move towards making a new bridge a reality,” Jerry Wray said in the statement.

The significance of the bill is that it allows private capital, through fees collected from tolls, to fund transportation infrastructure, enabling public-private partnerships (PPP; P3).

The cost for replacing the Brent Spence Bridge, which carries both I-75 and I-71 traffic through the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area, is estimated at $2.5 billion, according to the website of the project, the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor.

The expensive price tag means “adequate funds do not exist to replace and refurbish the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor using traditional funding methods,” according to the website, which suggests “tolling may be the only opportunity the commonwealth of Kentucky and the state of Ohio have to build this bridge before the year 2040”.

The Brent Spence Bridge was listed as “functionally obsolete” by the National Bridge Inventory in 1998 due in large part to limited visibility and safety concerns, the website said.

House Bill 533, which is sponsored by Rep. Ross W. McGregor (R.) and Rep. Dale Mallory (D.), provides that: a toll project may include the replacement, improvement, rehabilitation, operation and maintenance of a bridge or system of bridges at one location that carries two interstate highways over the Ohio River to another state; to amend the law governing public-private agreements relative to transportation facilities; and to provide for the collection of user fees on toll projects by toll project operators, according to websites of both Representatives.

This means that the legislation allows all-electric tolling throughout Ohio, including on bridges that carry Interstate 71 and 75 traffic.