FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday that they will jointly pursue up to $2 billion in federal funding to drastically reduce traffic congestion on and around the Brent Spence Bridge, which connects Covington, Kentucky, to Cincinnati, Ohio.
The governors said they plan to request up to $2 billion in funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the long-discussed Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project.
The funding is part of the bipartisan federal infrastructure bill, which includes at least $39 billion for bridge projects. If awarded to Kentucky and Ohio, the requested funds would primarily be used to build a new companion bridge over the Ohio River to give drivers an alternative to the Brent Spence Bridge.
As part of Monday’s announcement, the governors signed a memorandum of understanding confirming the states’ intention to work together on the bridge project. The memorandum also directs transportation officials in both states to begin preparations for construction. A more detailed interstate agreement will be signed later this year.
“With today’s signing, the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the State of Ohio are aligning our efforts to make this project a reality,” Beshear said. “This memorandum spells out our obligations and positions us to quickly apply for these federal dollars, which will allow us not only to build this new bridge, but to do it without tolls! And just as important: This project shows what we in government can do when we embrace cooperation and progress and simply do what is best for our people.”
“For decades, the backups on the Brent Spence Bridge have frustrated drivers, hindered economic development and slowed supply chain deliveries. Today, a solution is in reach, and we are committed to aggressively working together to secure this funding to help us fix this transportation nightmare once and for all,” DeWine said. “Not only will this project improve quality of life for drivers in Ohio and Kentucky, but keeping this major transportation network open and moving will also have a significant positive impact on our national economy and national security.”
The Brent Spence Bridge was constructed in the 1960s to carry around 80,000 vehicles a day, but the daily I-75 and I-71 traffic load has reached 160,000 vehicles in recent years. Because I-75 is a key freight corridor stretching from Canada to Florida, the slowdowns also impact commerce throughout the eastern United States.
The teams at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Ohio Department of Transportation have been planning the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project for nearly two decades, completing the critical groundwork that has made this project nearly shovel ready. Because of this previous planning, project construction could potentially begin in 2024 if funding is received.
“The Brent Spence Bridge is the critical link in this important corridor,” KYTC Secretary Jim Gray said. “New funding will support the construction of a new bridge – not a replacement – as well as updates to the existing bridge and the interstate network throughout the corridor. The Brent Spence Bridge is safe and structurally sound and will serve a critical transportation need for decades to come.”
“The signing of this document is a very clear and public show of action by both states,” Dr. Jack Marchbanks, director of ODOT, said. “This critical step will help be competitive in the federal grant process and will allow the bi-state team to start moving this project forward.”
The planned transportation project will not replace the Brent Spence Bridge, because the bridge remains structurally sound. The new funding would cover the bulk of the cost for KYTC and ODOT to construct the new companion bridge to the west of the current bridge. The project would also make improvements to the existing bridge surrounding the eight-mile interstate corridor.
The second bridge would add much-needed capacity by separating local and through traffic to ease the ongoing traffic backups. The project would also provide an opportunity to invest in local businesses and a growing workforce by improving safety and travel along this critical national corridor for commerce and freight.
The states will apply for the federal grant funding together once application guidance is released by the U.S. Department of Transportation. If funding is granted, both states have agreed to contribute any required matching funds.
Additional bipartisan statements of support for the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project are below.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, D-Ky., said: “I’m glad Kentucky and Ohio’s governors are taking this important step today to make sure this project gets done. I was proud to support last year’s landmark bipartisan infrastructure deal because I know the vast, positive impact it will have on our state and economy. Already, Kentucky is slated to receive more than $5 billion in federal funds to improve our roads, bridges, riverports, railways, broadband and more. The bill also created several competitive grant programs for which states like Kentucky and Ohio can apply to help address major projects like the Brent Spence Bridge.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said: “Today’s announcement is great news for Cincinnati, as well as the larger region, and it brings us one step closer to a new companion bridge, which will ease traffic along the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor. Ohio’s transportation needs were a top priority for me during negotiations for the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which has helped pave the way for today’s MOU signing. I will continue to work with state and federal partners to ensure this project comes to fruition.”
Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said: “I am proud that after decades of neglect and empty promises, we are finally on the verge of building a new companion bridge to the Brent Spence, because of the bipartisan infrastructure law. I wrote the Bridge Investment Act with Brent Spence in mind, a nationally-significant crossing that is vital to Ohio’s economic future. Today’s announcement is an important step toward creating new jobs and making Ohio and our country more competitive. I congratulate Governors DeWine and Beshear and transportation leaders in both states for moving this critical project forward under the infrastructure law. My focus over the coming months will be working with President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg to help Ohio and Kentucky receive the largest possible grant for the new bridge.”
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