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CNN, ABC Highlight Brent Spence Amid Federal Infrastructure Bill Talks

The Brent Spence Bridge is garnering more national media attention as talks continue in the nation's capital about a potential multi-trillion dollar infrastructure bill.

President Joe Biden is hoping to see lawmakers approve his proposed $2 trillion landmark policy plan.

Many in the local region are hopeful that such a federal package would propel movement on a years-old goal to improve the Brent Spence Bridge corridor along Interstates 71 and 75 which connects Covington to Cincinnati.

Just over a week after The New York Times included the 60-year old functionally obsolete span among seven U.S. infrastructure problems in need of fixing, CNN and ABC News turned their sights on the bridge.

The CNN report reads in part:

Getting the legislation passed is a critical test not only for the scope of Biden's agenda, but also for whether government can deliver on promises to repair the nation's crumbling infrastructure -- much to the frustration of people who try to drive over the Brent Spence Bridge from here in downtown Cincinnati into Covington, Ky.

"We've been here before. We've had multiple presidents say, 'Hey, we're going to take care of major infrastructure needs,' and that did not happen," said Brent Cooper, president of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. "We're very concerned and nervous about it. It's part of why we would like to see a bipartisan approach to this."

Cooper, who owns an IT business whose technicians are impacted by the traffic jams and delays on the bridge, said he was "thrilled" that Biden is focusing on infrastructure. He said most business owners are opposed to an increase in the corporate tax, preferring to finance the $2.5 billion project through "some sort of user or miles-driven fees."

"We're frustrated if politics gets in the way of getting something built," Cooper said.

Not all business owners share that view.

The chief executive officer of a major Cincinnati-area company said the importance of rebuilding the nation's decrepit infrastructure should not become consumed by a debate over raising corporate taxes.

"Some people will bark, but you've got to pick up the dinner check somehow. It's time to get on with it," the chief executive told CNN, speaking on condition of anonymity to talk frankly about the controversial tax issue. "It would be a gross shame if another opportunity to pass an infrastructure plan is squandered."

Mark Policinski, the chief executive of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments, who has been advocating for a new Brent Spence Bridge for more than a decade, said he believes this moment is different. The pandemic opened a greater willingness for government spending, he said, as well as sparked more of an awareness among consumers about where their goods come from.

"We've been promised so many times that this is going to be pushed across the goal line, but I think it is different," Policinski said. "People understand today, better than they ever had, how vulnerable an economy is."

The White House has not identified projects that would be included in the infrastructure proposal, but the President said 10 major bridges that highly impact the nation's commerce would receive top priority. State and local officials on both sides of the Ohio River say they are confident the Brent Spence Bridge would be among the projects selected if a bill passes.

Read the full CNN report here.

The ABC News report reads in part:

The international confectionary company that makes Mentos and Airheads candy, Perfetti Van Melle, employs 460 people at its factory and distribution center in Erlanger, Kentucky, a short drive from the Brent Spence Bridge.

Its plant, nestled in an industrial park near large Amazon and Coca-Cola facilities, ships over 3 million Airheads bars a day. Many travel over the bridge.

When the bridge was closed late last year, the company incurred financial penalties when some of the 400 trucks that come and go from its facilities could not deliver products on time, according to its president and CEO for North America, Sylvia Buxton.

"All of the business leaders that I've spoken to are very supportive of the infrastructure package," Buxton said. "This is long overdue. There's been a lack of spending in this area for decades, and it's definitely starting to show."

Paco Tello, the company's vice president of manufacturing for North America, said the company chose to base its operations near the bridge due to easy access to nearby interstates. But he said further delays on the bridge could hit their bottom line.

“Any disruption or any problem that you encounter on that bridge will potentially cause a supply problem or delays for our customers,” Tello said. “So it could represent additional costs.”

Read the full ABC News report here.

Correction: An earlier version of this article described the bridge as "structurally obsolete". That was a mistake. It is considered "functionally obsolete". The article has been updated.

-Staff report

Photo: The Brent Spence Bridge as seen from the Radisson Hotel in Covington (RCN file)

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