New Report Identifies Two Options Kentucky, Ohio Could Explore for New Ohio River Bridge

The two states mull their options on a bridge that would greatly ease congestion.

Mon December 09, 2013 - Midwest Edition
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The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) released a study of options Oct. 3 for a new Ohio River bridge between Cincinnati and northern Kentucky. The report identifies two options Kentucky and Ohio could consider as the states continue their work to hammer out a funding plan for building the new bridge.

The analysis examined four procurement methods in terms of cost factors, schedule benefits and market conditions, among others. It concluded that two delivery models represented the most attractive potential options for ODOT and KYTC:

• Design-Build — An approach where the states finance the project through a possible combination of federal, state, federal loan and bond funding. Following a request for proposal, contractors respond with designs and plans and the selected contractor builds the project. Repayment of loans and bonds would be made through the collection of tolls.

• Availability Payment Concession — A contractor finances and builds the project and is repaid on a regular schedule over many years. This repayment of financing the project is by the collection of tolls.

“The study focuses on two potential delivery and funding options,” Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said. “Our bi-state management team will continue to work so that, together, we can make a reasoned decision.”

The project involves constructing a second bridge directly to the west of the existing Brent Spence Bridge to increase safety and relieve some of the nation’s worst traffic congestion along Interstates 71 and 75. The existing bridge would be renovated to improve safety, visibility and other deficiencies. Nearly 8 mi. (12.9 km) of highway —approximately five in northern Kentucky and three in Ohio — also would be improved to accommodate the enhanced bridge.

The two-deck Brent Spence Bridge, which opened 50 years ago, carries both interstate highways across the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Covington, Ky. The bridge is structurally sound but classified “functionally obsolete” because of its narrow lanes, absence of emergency shoulders and limited visibility on its lower deck.

“Both Ohio and Kentucky know we cannot wait another 50 years to address this bottleneck,” said ODOT Director Jerry Wray. “Without the hard work by both teams the citizens and economy of southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky will suffer. We appreciate the partners we’ve found in Kentucky and look forward to continuing to move this project forward.”

Under the bipartisan leadership of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, the two states have made progress toward a long-term solution for the commercial and commuter bottleneck the Brent Spence Bridge has become.

The study ultimately eliminated two other finance and delivery models:

• Design-Bid-Build — Traditional approach in which the state transportation agency designs a project and submits it for bids. A contractor is selected and builds the project. Necessary funding for construction is obtained through traditional sources of federal and state funds.

• Toll Revenue Concession — A contractor finances and builds the project and recoups its costs exclusively through toll revenue. Funding for design, construction, maintenance and operation of the project is provided by private partner.

According to a Texas Transportation Institute Study, motorists waste 3.6 million hours of their time and 1.6 million gallons of fuel simply by sitting in traffic on the current Brent Spence Bridge each year. Further, more than 3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product — or $417 billion — crosses the bridge each year and that number is expected to grow to $830 billion by 2030.

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