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.

NKY chamber: Tolls the only way to go

For more than a decade, Northern Kentucky’s business community has been united in the belief that the aging, overcrowded Brent Spence Bridge is unsafe, inhibits economic growth and needs to be replaced.

Now, for the first time, it is also united in the belief that a public-private partnership and tolls are the best route forward for the $2.6 billion project – and it plans to apply major pressure on state lawmakers to come around to that way of thinking.

The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors voted Wednesday to take a new position on the issue, acknowledging that construction “will not happen without alternative funding for the project, including tolls” and calling on state lawmakers to take the first step by passing a bill to allow public-private partnerships in Kentucky.

“It is up to those of us who want a bridge to make our voices heard so that our lawmakers will represent our interests,” said Debbie Simpson, owner of Multi-Craft Printing and chair of the chamber board. “We sat back and figured the right thing would be done, and that hasn’t gotten us anywhere. So we have to fight for what we want, and we are willing to fight for it. We have to fight for the future of Northern Kentucky.”

Read the full article from nky.cincinnati.com here.

Video: NKY Chamber Board Chair & President share views on bridge

The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors voted Wednesday to take a new position on the issue, acknowledging that construction will not happen without alternative funding for the project, including tolls and calling on state lawmakers to take the first step by passing a bill to allow public-private partnerships in Kentucky.
Watch this video to hear more from Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Debbie Simpson and Chamber President Brent Cooper.

I lose over an hour a day commuting…

I live in NKY and work in downtown Cincinnati. On a normal day to drive from the house to work it should only take 45 minutes. But instead, during rush hour traffic, it takes 90 minutes…EACH WAY. So, I lose 1 1/2 hours a day, 7 1/2 hours a week, to bottleneck traffic in the cut in the hill. All of the good paying jobs are in Ohio but I wonder if it’s…

lost jobs

I took an engineering job across the bridge. It took me an hour to go 20 miles on I-75 across the bridge. It was the same time to drive cross county highway to I-275 thru Indiana. I found another job just to avoid using the nightmarish traffic on the Brent Spence bridge.

Build Our New Bridge Now Video

Nov 19, 2012

Sometimes described as ‘The Bridge To Everywhere’, the Brent Spence Bridge is at the convergence of I-71, I-74 and I-75 at the Ohio River. Its location is critical to north/south movements in the eastern United States while also connecting the upper Midwest with the ports and trade corridors of the Southwest and…