Chamber President: NKY in Need of Leadership on Bridge Project

Steve Stevens, president of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, took to YouTube to call for more leadership in the region's effort for a new Brent Spence Bridge. Stevens takes aim at legislators from Northern Kentucky that oppose legislation for public-private partnerships which the Chamber and other business interests have expressed support for as a way to complete the I-75 bridge project more quickly. "Disappointingly, right now Northern Kentucky's legislators are united against the effort," Stevens said. "The group believes that passage of (public private partnerships) will assuredly lead to tolls for the bridge, and that rather than begin work in 2015 to fix a growing problem they would rather wait for the federal government to fund the whole project."

Stevens referenced the recent public meeting between the governors of Ohio and Kentucky in which they both said the federal government would not be coming to the rescue for the Brent Spence Bridge project and that tolls would assuredly be a part of the process. The business community, including Chambers of Commerce on both sides of the Ohio River, have collaborated in raising support for public-private partnerships including the launch of two separate websites, Build Our New Bridge Now and Blocked by the Bridge.

"Building a new bridge is an absolute necessity and waiting is not an option," Stevens said. "The business community's ability to lead this project to completion stops when legislators kick the can down the road. We need our state lawmakers to recognize the urgency and want this project completed as much as we do. Most importantly, we desire them to begin taking ownership in determining a realistic solution rather than just saying no to advancing the project."

The City if Covington will host an open house on Tuesday evening at City Hall for a full update on where the bridge project is and what effects the current plans may have on the city. Over the weekend, Covington City Commissioner Steve Frank expressed opinions on Facebook about the proposed public private partnerships.  Referencing a link to an explanation about various types of public-private partnerships, Frank wrote, "..."Design Build" which for all intents and purposes is letting a General Contractor run the construction of the project and then disappear after they have been paid for services rendered to what no thinking person could want,"Design-Build-Finance-Operate-Maintain" where the public will be paying for years beyond what it cost to construct and operate the Bridge. That is the type of Public Private Partnership that is getting pitched. The pitfalls in these contracts are legion and beyond the comprehension of most of those who are pitching this solution. They are in either love with a buzz word or paid enablers or stand to benefit in other ways. The vast majority are not capable of knowing where or how the Private Entity will have taken them for a ride or do understand but will reap benefits at the public's expense."

"An addition concern with the new Brent Spence Bridge span is what properties are going to be condemned and the cost to those that are not taken (they won't be paid) in lost customers due to construction messes, lost or fouled up exits, or indirectly in the lack of spending that will go on in the community for many years because of toll payments," Frank wrote. "There may be a short term bump from taxes received and money spent by workers on the bridge (the models predicting how much are always wrong) but the long term costs and the higher out year charges that are buried in the details of the negotiating will strip away (we can argue as to the degree) the value (value for money study) of the new bridge. Oh and who even gets to evaluate the work of the Value for Money study? How can all the internal costs be calculated as opposed to the internal benefits of the bridge when there is as yet no Public Private Partnership law in the State of Kentucky nor has their overhead been negotiated as yet?"

Take a look at Steve Stevens's video:

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Rendering of Brent Spence Bridge project