11:15am

Tue August 30, 2011
The Commonwealth

Public Comments Support East End Bridge

Public comments from earlier this summer on the Ohio River Bridges Project say building the East End Bridge is a priority, according to documents obtained by the Courier-Journal through an open records request. Developments for the project have been stalled since 2003 due to lack of funding. A new proposal by bi-state authorities in January cut around $1.2 billion from the project. But it also stemmed a new estimated year-long federal review called the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, which includes public comments.

“They have a huge impact on allowing us to stop, look and listen….and to make sure we’re heading in the right direction,” said Gary Valentine, a 22-year project development veteran and a Kentucky representative in the bi-state authority.

A total of 1,200 oral and written comments were received, he said.

The Courier-Journal reviewed hundreds of pages of public comment documents, which show a majority of East End Bridge supporters want only East End Bridge construction. But Valentine said construction of the East End Bridge alone doesn’t fit the project’s need, which is to improve cross-river mobility.

In that, there are five needs identified to address improvement: inefficient mobility, traffic congestion, safety, system linkage, consistency with the metropolitan transportation plan, which prioritizes all transportation projects in the area. Valentine said construction of the East End Bridge won’t address these issues. But the authority must respond why in its Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.

“We need to look at the performance measures established to address the purpose of need and to see how an East End alternative weighs in against that. It didn’t meet the purpose of need in the original process has something changed today where it does meet the purpose of need,” said Valentine.

The project’s new plan also includes tolls, which public comments show strong opposition to. But Valentine says without tolls, the project won’t be able to meet its need.

“We have needs to meet and there aren’t enough funds to meet the needs and there has to be some type of supplemental funding,” he said.

A draft of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement will be revised and will include another round of public comments, which is expected later this year.