Thursday, July 15, 2004

Ohio may do Brent Spence impact study



By James Pilcher
Enquirer staff writer

Ohio and Kentucky are discussing the possibility of Ohio taking charge of a key stage of the Brent Spence bridge replacement effort.

Highway officials from both states Wednesday confirmed they are discussing the possibility of Ohio conducting the environmental impact study, even though Kentucky owns the bridge and is ultimately responsible for the project.

The environmental review can take as long as five years and cost as much as 5 percent to 10 percent of any project. A preliminary estimate for replacing the Brent Spence currently stands at $750 million, and the total project could take 10 to 15 years, depending on when funding is finalized.

One reason given by Kentucky officials is that Ohio could see the greater impact, especially under some of the scenarios currently being studied that include a second bridge that would cut through western downtown and parts of Queensgate.

"That is a potential reason for doing this," said Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Mike Goins, who said no timetable for a decision has been set.

The environmental process identifies potential impacts on the environment and finalizes alignments.

The Ohio Department of Transportation recently streamlined its environmental process. In addition, the agency is familiar with the Cincinnati riverfront.

"This is a credit to our environmental folks and their experience that we are even talking about doing this," ODOT spokesman Brian Cunningham said.

Cunningham and Goins said that the two sides have not yet discussed funding the environmental study.

Just last month, however, cabinet secretary Clay Bailey said that Kentucky was ready to bid out parts of the study for private contractors, using $4 million allocated by Congress.

The agency that oversees major highway spending in Ohio has authorized $12 million to study impacts and potential alignments of bridge approaches in Cincinnati.

E-mail jpilcher@enquirer.com




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