Category Archives: Uncategorized

Coalition commends Ohio Gov. Kasich and Ohio legislators for signing HB533 that will advance Bridge Project

Jun 12, 2014

Build Our New Bridge Coalition commends Ohio Gov. John Kasich for signing legislation to advance the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project HB 533 allows for modern tolling and strengthens P3 law   CINCINNATI, OH – The Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition today commended Ohio Governor John Kasich for signing House Bill 533, legislation with bipartisan support…

Congress won’t ride to rescue on Brent Spence Bridge

Mar 31, 2014

WASHINGTON – As Kentucky leaders continue to tussle over how to pay the $2.6 billion price tag for replacing the outdated Brent Spence Bridge, some clearly hope Congress will come to the rescue.

In arguing for a ban on tolls as a way to pay for the bridge, Kentucky state legislative leaders said earlier this month that the Brent Spence Bridge was the federal government’s “responsibility,” so Washington should come up with a way to pay for a much-needed new Ohio River crossing.  To read more click this link.

Politico: Highway fund stares into the abyss

This is a story from Politico.

By Adam Snider

3/26/14 4:17 PM EDT

The federal trust fund that pays for road, bridge and transit projects is on the verge of entering unknown territory: going dry.

Unless Congress acts, the Highway Trust Fund will start running out of money in July for the first time in its 58-year history, with no real precedent for what happens next. But the likely possibilities are ominous, including furloughs of employees in federal safety agencies and sharp cutbacks in the checks that the Department of Transportation sends to its state-government counterparts.

State DOTs would in turn have to cut or curtail their own projects, triggering job losses during the peak months for road work.

“We have the potential of missing an entire construction season,” said Michael Lewis, director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.

His state’s only funding program for roads and bridges is one that matches the federal program, which typically pays for 80 percent of a project’s cost. If the federal money stops flowing, Lewis said, “We’ve got nothing.”

That’s one message he’ll deliver when he testifies Thursday at a Senate hearing on the new transportation bill that Congress must pass by Sept. 30.But the highway fund will need rescuing months before then, based on the government’s latest estimates, although DOT doesn’t know exactly when the money will run out.

Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who served for five years under President Barack Obama, warned that an empty trust fund would “cause a complete calamity in transportation and infrastructure funding.” It would be “a total dereliction of congressional leadership,” he said in a comment to POLITICO.

The reasons for the depletion have been long in coming: Congress hasn’t raised the gasoline tax in 20 years, allowing inflation to erode the amount of construction work that the levy buys. More fuel-efficient cars and the economic downturn have cut into how much money the gas tax raises. And while the fund has come close to running out several times before, it’s never truly gone broke.

DOT officials readied for a depleted Highway Trust Fund in 2008, warning states that their reimbursement checks would be pro-rated and come less often. Congress heeded the call then, moving quickly to approve an $8 billion bailout.

But several more bailouts totaling tens of billions of dollars later, it’s not clear if the gridlocked Congress could pull off the same feat this time.

Failing that, DOT has few options.

The 19th century Antideficiency Act means the fund can’t run a deficit, and DOT can’t control the money coming in. So the department is left with implementing a simple budgeting philosophy: Spend only what you have, matching outlays with income.

The pay-as-you-go approach would affect the daily reimbursements sent to states that have already paid upfront for projects under construction. Payments might come less often and be trimmed, but DOT wouldn’t actually “bounce checks” — despite what Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has said as he continues to urge lawmakers to find the needed money.

Department officials have two options if the balance hits critically low levels, and neither is attractive to states. If the fund has only 85 percent of the money needed to pay for projects, for example, it could either fully fund 85 percent of the projects or could give all projects 85 percent of their needed amounts. DOT could also blend the two approaches.

The cuts could entail scaling back the daily reimbursements to several times a week, which can affect cash-flow for states that have already spent the money. The effects would be especially large for states that rely heavily on the federal program, such as sparsely populated Western states that have tens of thousands of miles of roads but few people paying the gas tax.

Employees of the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are also paid from the trust fund, as are some staff at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Furloughs could be on the table, meaning reviews of new highway projects and key truck and car safety programs could grind to a halt.

Depletion of the trust fund would come as a one-two punch. The highway account that pays for road and bridge projects should run out in July, while the transit account will survive into the next fiscal year — but not long after.

DOT will have to act well before the fund’s balance hits zero, however. Officials estimate that the highway account needs about $4 billion in cash liquidity to maintain timely spending, and the transit account needs $1 billion. If the balances dip below that recommended cushion, the agency will have to act.

To top it off, DOT doesn’t even have up-to-date numbers on how much is in the fund and doesn’t know when zero day will arrive. The latest estimate says late July for the highway account, but that’s several weeks earlier than predicted in February. DOT officials know how much they send each day to states, but the Treasury Department updates the fund’s income only every quarter.

And sometimes Treasury gets it wrong, two former top DOT officials said.

The government typically collects one large check from oil refineries — the ones actually paying the gas tax — that includes items like Social Security, payroll and other taxes on top of the fuel excise tax. Treasury then estimates how much is earmarked for the Highway Trust Fund, and later reconciles earlier guesses against production numbers and other data from refineries. Sometimes that means DOT gets less money for the highway fund than it thought earlier in the year.

The Congressional Budget Office has offered two scenarios to bring the trust fund back into line in the long term, neither of which would sit well with lawmakers: Eliminate virtually the entire $51 billion road and transit program for the upcoming fiscal year, or boost the 18.4-cents-a-gallon gas tax by 10 cents. The official congressional scorekeeper projectsthat the fund will be $13 billion short through 2015, with the figures skyrocketing in later years. Just 5½ years from now, it will be $95 billion in the red.

“The administration has repeatedly called for increased infrastructure investment to avoid such a situation,” DOT said in a statement noting the administration’s four-year, $302 billion proposal in the president’s budget request.

Former U.S. Congressman Geoff Davis: NKY loses with Simpson’s bridge amendment

Geoff Davis of Hebron represented Kentucky’s Fourth Congressional District in Congress from 2005 to 2012. While representing my congressional district in Washington, I worked with former U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning of Southgate to earmark nearly $50 million for the replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge. The funding was essential to lay the foundation for the major…

Need for Brent Spence Corridor project isn’t going away

By Mike Hancock

Secretary, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

 

FRANKFORT, Ky. – On average, a commuter in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area spends 37 hours per year in traffic jams. That is according to the closely watched and highly regarded Urban Mobility Report issued annually by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University.

Thirty-seven hours. Nearly the equivalent of a work week.

It’s a lamentable and frustrating statistic, and it’s not going to improve on its own.

The largest single source of that gridlock is the Interstate-75/Interstate-71 Corridor, including the aged and overburdened Brent Spence Bridge.

Nothing is going to improve until dramatic changes are made in that Corridor, including construction of a second bridge to take some of the load off the Brent Spence.

Nothing is going to change the fact that the Brent Spence, which carries both interstate routes over the Ohio River and a measurable share of the nation’s commerce, also carries twice the volume of traffic for which it was built 51 years ago.

The need for action on the I-75/I-71 Corridor is obvious to anyone who has to drive it.

But in all the sound, fury and outright demagoguery over whether tolling is appropriate as a way to help finance the Brent Spence Bridge Relocation Project, this particular point has been drowned out: The Corridor will not – cannot – get any better on its own.

The real issue is not whether drivers want to pay tolls; it’s whether drivers want to keep paying the price of lost time, lost productivity and daily highway hazards with the Corridor as it is.

How best to finance the Brent Spence project is a legitimate and important issue that needs public debate and discussion. But the debate should be rational.

The Federal Highway Trust Fund, source of federal transportation funding for all the states, is nearly broke. Its revenues have been on a downward arc for years because the fund’s main source, the federal tax on motor fuels, has not increased in 21 years. Since 1993, it has been a flat 18.4 cents per gallon for gasoline, 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel.

Congress, which has shown no appetite for raising the motor fuels tax, periodically bailed out the Trust Fund with a transfer of General Fund monies but always with great reluctance and always at the 11th hour – playing havoc with the ability of Kentucky, Ohio and other states to carry out long-range planning.

Despite that history, it is apparent from public comments that many people in the region firmly believe the federal government should pay for the Brent Spence – 100 percent – because it is an important interstate project. And they hold out the unreal hope that Congress and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will eventually come to the rescue if Kentucky and Ohio simply take and hold a hard line on tolling.

In fact, demands on the Trust Fund have never been greater and promise to continue mounting, year after year. In addition to the Brent Spence, no fewer than 36 transportation “mega projects” – defined as costing $1 billion or more – currently are in the works around the United States. Several are larger than the Brent Spence. All are moving forward with tolling as an element – or being considered as an element – of their financing.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Ohio Department of Transportation seek the opportunity, working together, to deliver a badly needed infrastructure project to the Tri-State Area with a reasonable and workable financial plan.

But to do that, Kentucky and Ohio need new tools. One such tool is the ability, when feasible and desirable, to enter into Public-Private Partnership agreements – P-3, for short – with private-sector entities that can bring badly needed capital to a public project.

Congress delivered another tool to states with passage of the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act – TIFIA – under which it is possible for states to obtain very low-cost loans that can significantly reduce overall costs of a mega project. That was Kentucky’s experience in obtaining a $452.2 million TIFIA loan for the Downtown Crossing portion of the Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges Project.

We are in the very early stages of the Brent Spence project’s financial planning. The “Initial Financial Plan” for the project – emphasis on “initial” – was submitted to FHWA on Dec. 31, 2013. The financial plan will undergo many changes over time. Kentucky and Ohio will aggressively pursue a TIFIA loan, for example.

Likewise, the $60 million included in Governor Steve Beshear’s recommended budget and Recommended Highway Plan for the Brent Spence project was a starting point – not the final word by any means – on level of funding for the project besides tolls. The Kentucky Highway Plan only covers six years. The question of what financing of the BSB will look like beyond 2020 – the sixth year – is yet to be determined.

The $60 million proposed by Governor Beshear would have provided for continued planning, right of way acquisition and other work to keep the Brent Spence project moving forward. But at the behest of legislators from Northern Kentucky, the P-3 legislation was amended in the Kentucky House this week to preclude any possibility of tolls for any interstate project between Kentucky and Ohio.

Then, not surprisingly, the House passed a transportation budget and highway plan that stripped away the bulk of the cash Governor Beshear had proposed for the Brent Spence and spent it elsewhere. The House left the Brent Spence with a $22 million federal earmark. But by federal law the earmark could not be spent for anything else, anyway.

To reiterate, the question is not whether drivers in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky want to pay tolls in exchange for a much-improved Brent Spence Corridor. The question is whether they want to continue paying the price of congestion, lost time and lost productivity. Time really is money.

The budget and highway plan legislation have now moved to the Kentucky Senate.

It is our hope that a window of opportunity has not been slammed shut.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Mike Hancock Dispels Rumors of $6.50 Tolls

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Mike Hancock responds to a question from OKI Executive Director Mark Policinski regarding speculation that tolls on the Brent Spence Bridge would cost $6.50.

Mark,

That is certainly not the case.   As included in the Options Analysis the Transportation Cabinet publicly released with the Ohio Department of Transportation last fall, two tolling scenarios have been evaluated thus far.  The base, per-trip rate for a passenger vehicle was between $1 and $2.  For light trucks (box trucks), rates from $3 to $6 were evaluated, and for heavy trucks (semis), rates ranged from $5 to $10 per trip.  Here are the details of the two scenarios analyzed in the Options Analysis:

Scenario One:

o   $1 base toll for passenger vehicles

o   $3 base toll for light trucks (box trucks)

o   $5 base toll for heavy trucks (semis)

Scenario Two:

o   $2 base toll for passenger vehicles

o   $6 base toll for light trucks (box trucks)

o   $10 base toll for heavy trucks (semis)

It is important to note that these are preliminary rate scenarios and are subject to change as traffic and revenue analyses continue and the ultimate plan of finance is developed.  At no time has a toll rate of $6.50 for one-way passenger vehicle travel ever been discussed or been remotely considered. 

Mike

The time to act is now! Call 1-800-372-7181 and ask your legislator to support HB407!

With less than three weeks remaining until the General Assembly begins their veto recess, time is running short to pass HB 407, legislation to authorize public-private partnerships in Kentucky. HB 407 (Combs) enables the use of public-private partnerships (P3s) by state and local governments to encourage competition for private sector investments, save tax dollars, and promote transparency and accountability. Every state bordering Kentucky already has a P3 law.

Help us make P3 legislation a reality in Kentucky by contacting House leaders and urge them to pass HB 407 this week. Visit our P3 Action Alert to quickly and easily send an email or leave your representative a message by dialing 1-800-372-7181.

Public-private partnership bill clears House budget committee

FRANKFORT—A bill that would allow the use of public-private partnerships, or P3s, to finance major government projects in the Commonwealth has cleared the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee.

P3s are public services or private ventures financed through partnerships between the public sector and one or more private companies.

House Bill 407 would impact a wide range of government projects, said Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, who sponsors the legislation with House Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly, D-Paris.

“It’s intended to do things all over the Commonwealth of Kentucky in several different areas,” which may include higher education and transportation projects, Combs said.

Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said the bill will be “enabling legislation” for public-private partnerships to help fund multiple high-cost projects. Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington, mentioned one project that could be affected is work on the aging Brent Spence Bridge linking Northern Kentucky and Ohio.

“The mere possibility of the utilization of this bill as a device to toll the bridge that lies in Northern Kentucky I feel is an affront and am really somewhat taken aback by it,” said Simpson. He asked Hancock if the bill could lead to tolls to fund construction of the Brent Spence Bridge project.

Yes, according to Hancock, who said, “tolls will be a part of this project; otherwise there simply isn’t the money to accomplish the project.”

Combs said she understands concerns that Simpson (who presented a committee amendment that was not taken up by the committee) and others may have about HB 407 and how it could affect the Brent Spence Bridget project. But she also said the bill affects “far more” than the Brent Spence Bridge.

“Whether they build that bridge, or not, is up to the Northern Kentucky people,” Combs said.

Another Northern Kentucky legislator, Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, said she believes in the importance of public-private partnerships but passed on voting for the bill until, she said, she sees Simpson’s proposed amendment.

The bill now goes to the House for further action.

EDITORIAL: Best way to fund new bridge is tolling

The Brent Spence Bridge opened to traffic 50 years ago with what was then considered a forward-thinking design: a double-deck structure, one deck headed north, one headed south. It was built to carry 80,000 cars and 3,000 trucks a day, a substantial flow of traffic in 1963.

Fast forward to 2014 and the same bridge is now carrying double the traffic – 160,000 vehicles – with the number of trucks having grown tenfold to 30,000.

Every day.

The bridge, which carries Interstates 71 and 75 across the Ohio River, needs to be replaced. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that the only way this multibillion-dollar project will be accomplished is if those who use the bridge help bear the cost of paying for it through tolls.

To guard public safety, promote the growth of the region’s economy, and protect and expand jobs, Northern Kentucky’s state legislators need to get on board with passing a law that would enable tolling as a method to finance the $3 billion-plus needed to build the bridge and miles of roadway approaching it.

Pressure is building on Northern Kentucky legislators to get behind a bill that could permit that state to finance construction by counting on the revenue from tolls. The thought of bridge tolls has been especially unpopular in Northern Kentucky, and legislators there and elsewhere in the state have been reluctant to endorse the necessary legislation. But business leaders are now ramping up the pressure in a bid to get that legislation passed this year. The Northern Kentucky CEO Roundtable, a group of 12 business, civic and philanthropic leaders, and the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce have both formally endorsed tolls and urged legislators to do the same.

It’s encouraging to see business leaders do just that – lead – on this matter. Now our elected leaders in Northern Kentucky must do the same.

Kentucky needs to pass a law so major infrastructure projects can continue to get done in this era of scarce resources and budget deficits. A bill that won approval from a Kentucky House committee last week is a way to create new financing methods to build public projects. It would allow for the formation of public-private partnerships in which a private company could construct, finance or operate a public facility.

Frustration and impatience is evident among this part of the business community. “We are disappointed and troubled by those in our community – some of whom are our elected leaders and public servants – who are offering nothing more to this debate than fear and stonewalling,” the CEO group wrote.

The impatience is justified. A new bridge has been studied and debated for more than a decade. It’s estimated that construction costs increase by $100 million for each year of delay. Doing nothing is a risky alternative. The volume of traffic crossing the bridge has doubled since it was built. By 2040, it is estimated that vehicle traffic will approach 250,000 a day.

Read the complete article from Cincinnati.com here.