COVINGTON – In a display of bipartisan leadership, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and Ohio Gov. John Kasich Wednesday signed an agreement that describes in broad terms how their two states will cooperatively build a new bridge over the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Covington. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joined the governors for the landmark announcement.
While the exact structure type is still to be determined, the selected roadway alternative for the long-awaited bridge is a two-deck span that would carry all of Interstate 75, plus southbound lanes of I-71 and three southbound lanes of local traffic. It would be adjacent to, and greatly reduce the load now being shouldered by the Brent Spence Bridge, according to a news release from Beshear's office.
“Working together, our two states have made excellent progress toward a long-awaited solution for the commercial and commuter bottleneck that the Brent Spence Bridge has become,” Beshear said in the news release. “Gov. Kasich and I both recognize, and are in full agreement, that a second bridge is an absolute necessity. This agreement reflects our resolve to see it become reality.”
“The businesses and citizens that use the bridge every day need relief from gridlock today - not 30 years from now,” Kasich said. “I look forward to working closely with Gov. Beshear to make a real change and deliver the Brent Spence Bridge quickly.”
The two-deck Brent Spence, which opened on Nov. 25, 1963, today carries the entire load of both I-71 and I-75 and two-way local traffic. Though structurally sound, it is classified as “functionally obsolete” because of its narrow lanes, absence of emergency shoulders and limited visibility on its lower deck.
Under the selected alternative design, the Brent Spence would undergo renovation and remain in service to carry two northbound lanes of I-71 on its upper deck and three lanes of northbound local traffic on its lower deck.
Kentucky and Ohio already have made significant progress toward the planning and building of a new bridge. Preliminary design work has been completed, as has a federally required environmental assessment that resulted in a “Finding of No Significant Impact” by the Federal Highway Administration in August.
The Memorandum of Agreement signed by Beshear and Kasich outlines remaining duties and responsibilities of each state.
· The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Ohio Department of Transportation will formally establish a Bi-State Management Team to jointly oversee the project.
· The team will be responsible for evaluating procurement options, preparing a Major Project Initial Financial Plan required by FHWA, procuring professional services when needed, maintaining a project website and managing public relations.
· KYTC and ODOT will be jointly responsible for costs associated with the investigation of project procurement options.
· Work performed in Ohio under the agreement will be governed by the laws of Ohio. Work performed in Kentucky will be governed by the laws of the Commonwealth.
The signing of the agreement was the latest example of the way in which Gov. Beshear and Gov. Kasich have worked together in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation.
In 2011, the two governors joined forces in the fight against the proliferation of “pill mills” and the illicit traffic in prescription narcotics. In May 2012, Beshear was Kasich’s guest at a ground breaking in Ironton, Ohio, for a new bridge ODOT is constructing between Ironton and Russell, Ky.