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Op-Ed: Doing Nothing is Not an Option for the Brent Spence Bridge

Doing nothing is no longer an option for our community when it comes to infrastructure.

Our time and resources could be better spent than sitting in traffic due to the Brent Spence Bridge routine maintenance repairs. People are now seeing first hand that even a partial closure of the bridge can have a domino effect across the entire region.

The bridge last underwent this type of focused maintenance in the late 1990’s, and we should be grateful it is being completed as quickly as possible. The KYTC District 6 office should be commended for their efforts to find a contractor willing to work around the clock to complete the six month project in 60 days.

However, if routine maintenance can cause this kind of disruption, imagine what long term disruption would do to our businesses and our quality of life.

So after years of debate about the future of the corridor, I hope that we can all agree we can no longer kick the can down the road.

SEE ALSO: Poll shows support for $1 toll to fund Brent Spence Bridge project

The Greater Cincinnati region is attractive to businesses who want to locate here, in part, because we are within a one hour flight or a day’s drive of 60 percent of the population of the United States. This makes Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky an attractive place for businesses like DHL and Amazon. Over half the flights at CVG are cargo flights.

But it doesn’t do businesses any good to be one day’s drive from half of America if the day’s journey is spent sitting in a traffic jam. Traffic congestion on the Brent Spence Bridge costs an average of 3.6 million hours of delay for passenger cars and freight carriers every year. Do the math and it is plain to see the expense of doing nothing is already costing us hundreds of millions of dollars a year!

Regionalism is key to our economy and our daily commerce, but if our infrastructure is failing and we are unable to travel across the region, the region can’t grow like it could or should.

On the recent joint Northern Kentucky Chamber/Cincinnati Regional Chamber DC Fly-in, we were told by multiple high level sources that President Trump’s proposed $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan involves using $300 billion in federal dollars leveraged with other funding sources (either state and/or private) for a $1.2 trillion impact. If our region stands any chance of receiving any of those federal funds, we are going to have to come to grips with the reality that state and/or private funding will be essential to address this key infrastructure need.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, a businessman himself, should be commended for taking a fresh approach to how infrastructure dollars are spent in the Commonwealth. With his direction, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is developing a more data-driven, objective and collaborative approach to determine the state’s transportation funding priorities. SHIFT – Strategic Highway Investment Formula for Tomorrow – is a prioritization model that will bring balance and dependability to Kentucky’s over-programmed highway plan. Considering that the Brent Spence Bridge is ranked as high as the second-most important infrastructure project in the nation, it is hard to fathom it would not rank at the top of the list at the state level.

SEE PREVIOUSLY: NKY transportation projects rank highly on state list 

During the next two months of backups, headaches and wasted productivity, we urge you to join with the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to reach out to elected officials in Frankfort and Washington, D.C. to stress the importance of doing something to solve the Brent Spence Bridge corridor.

Because doing nothing is no longer an option.

Bob Heil is chairman of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

Photo: Brent Spence Bridge (RCN file)