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CINCINNATI— Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed legislation today to allow tolls on a new bridge over the Ohio River that will replace the current overpass, which has been deemed “functionally obsolete.”
The Republican signed the bill at Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium with the 51-year-old Brent Spence Bridge as his backdrop.
The bridge, which spans the Ohio River and connects Cincinnati to northern Kentucky along Interstate 75, carries about 172,000 vehicles a day. The reconstructed bridge would more than double that capacity and address safety and traffic concerns that have caused the National Bridge Inventory to label the Brent Spence as “functionally obsolete.”
Despite Kasich’s signing of the bill, tolling is still far down the road. The new bridge isn’t expected to be finished until 2019, and Kentucky also would have to approve legislation to allow for tolling, something lawmakers there vehemently oppose. Construction of the new bridge is set to start by 2016.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, supports it.
Kentucky’s reluctance came up repeatedly during Kasich’s bill signing, with the governor saying that some Ohio officials thought the state should wait until its neighbor to the south was on board.
“That’s totally unacceptable,” Kasich said. “I said this is a top priority for Cincinnati, for the region, for the state and for the country, and if we don’t lead, then we’re going to send a signal that, ‘Oh, we’re nervous about what the reality is of building that new bridge,‘ so we did move forward.”
Kasich called on the northern Kentucky business community to urge their lawmakers that the toll is necessary to help fund the $2.5 billion project.