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Opinion Pieces

What The Transportation Bill Means for Greater Cincinnati

As part of my efforts to better represent you in Washington, I routinely ask local folks what Congress can do to improve their lives and our community.  One answer I hear time and again (along with simplifying the tax code and getting the federal government off their backs) is that we need to replace the Brent Spence Bridge.

The bridge was built in 1963 and was intended to carry 75,000 cars daily.  Well, today, it is estimated that more than double that -- 160,000 cars -- cross the bridge every day.  As a result, the bridge is now considered "functionally obsolete." Bottlenecks on the Brent Spence Bridge cause headaches for drivers deep into Kentucky and as far north as Dayton in Ohio.  And not just on I-75 and I-71, but also on side roads as people seek alternative routes to the clogged interstates. 

Consequently, replacing the bridge should reduce traffic congestion and dramatically improve travel throughout the region, which is why I have long supported the project.

Over the years, I have worked with leaders from both Ohio and Kentucky to help secure more than $50 million in federal funding for the bridge, mostly to complete studies and related preliminary tasks. 

More recently, our efforts have focused on creating a new grant program for nationally or regionally significant projects, for which the Brent Spence Bridge would be eligible for funding.  As part of that effort, I have worked with other members of Congress to urge leadership and the administration to include the program in a long-term transportation bill.  Former Congressman Geoff Davis and I even testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to advocate the creation of such a program.

Well, I am happy to report that our efforts have finally paid off, as a new grant program for large projects of national or regional significance was included in the five-year transportation bill that the House passed on December 3.   

This is potentially a big win for Greater Cincinnati, because it finally establishes a federal framework for financing the replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge.  That said, there are two things to keep in mind. 

First, Ohio and Kentucky will have to compete with other states for funding.  However, the Brent Spence Bridge is practically the poster child for this program, and should be an attractive project.  Secondly, because we face an $18.5 trillion debt, the federal government can only fund a portion of the bridge’s estimated $2.6 billion pricetag.  The rest of the money will need to be generated locally. 

Still, for the first time in years, Ohio and Kentucky have a path forward on this critically important project.

Beyond the Brent Spence Bridge, the highway bill will also help to bolster, repair and strengthen our aging transportation infrastructure, without raising gas taxes.  And it will provide states and local governments some certainty as they move forward on much-needed transportation improvements. 

And so, while the transportation bill is not perfect, it does set Greater Cincinnati on the road to a better, safer future.


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