Governor vetoes bill that bans tolls on bridge
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear vetoed a popular bill Friday because he said it would imperil the future of the $2.6 billion Brent Spence Bridge project in northern Kentucky.
The bill was designed to make it easier for local governments to pay for expensive road projects by allowing them to partner with private entities. But it excluded one of the most expensive projects in the state
The Brent Spence Bridge that connects Covington and Cincinnati is more than 50 years old and carries more traffic than it was designed to hold. Kentucky owns the bridge and is responsible for its maintenance. But plans to replace the bridge have stalled because Kentucky leaders have balked at the $2.6 billion price tag.
Beshear has proposed using tolls on the bridge to pay for the project. But northern Kentucky lawmakers pushed back, adding an amendment to the bill that would ban the state from using tolls to pay for the bridge.
“It is imprudent to eliminate any potential means of financing construction of such a vital piece of infrastructure that serves not only the Commonwealth and the State of Ohio, but also the eastern United States,” Beshear wrote in his veto message.
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Dave Adkisson said he and his allies will ask lawmakers to override Beshear’s veto.
“Everybody knows that state government doesn’t have very much money and won’t for the foreseeable future,” Adkisson said. “That’s why (the University of Kentucky) built dormitories without going to state government asking for help. We need to unleash that all over the state.”
But Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville and the bill’s primary sponsor in the House, said it is unlikely the legislature will override the veto. She said she will try to pass the bill again next year.
“Maybe by then the northern Kentucky delegation will have somehow resolved their issues on their bridge,” she said, adding that the bridge is a small part of a bill about “creating economic development, new business and creating new jobs for the rest of the commonwealth.”
Meanwhile, House and Senate leaders continued to meet privately Friday to discuss the state’s two year, $4 billion road spending plan. The Senate included $37 million more than the House for pre-construction work on the Brent Spence Bridge. Lawmakers have until Tuesday to reach a compromise.