Sunday, January 11, 2015

Kentucky Clown Show

Otherwise known as the Kentucky Republican gubernatorial primary.  The leading candidate and his running mate want to re-legislate the entire Brent Spence Bridge project:
The leading Republican gubernatorial ticket in Kentucky wants to take a whole new look at the Brent Spence Bridge project if elected, examining potential new sites for a bridge, truck bans and a possible tunnel, while asking Ohio to pay more for the estimated $2.6 billion project.
In an exclusive interview with The Enquirer, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, said he and running mate Agriculture Commissioner James Comer are not convinced that a new bridge next to the existing span is the best course of action. He said that a new administration would ask for a level-set review of the project upon entering office, with the possibility of creating a new alignment through Campbell County and eastern Hamilton County.
McDaniel also said that Ohio should pay for at least half of the estimated $2.6 billion cost (right now, Kentucky is estimating to pay $1.5 billion of the project, including the cost of the new bridge itself and rehabbing the existing Brent Spence).
The 51-year-old bridge's conditioning is worsening and it carries more than double the daily traffic it was intended to. The project has been stuck in the planning stages for years, mainly because of a lack of federal funding. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear have said tolls are the only way to get the project done. Northern Kentucky state lawmakers, however, have long rejected tolls, fearing Northern Kentucky commuters would bear most of the costs. 
Let's take these issues one at a time.  They are not convinced that a new bridge beside the existing bridge is the best course of action.  There has been a detailed study completed (from 2005-2009) which selected this alternative. This bridge is the main artery of the regional transportation system, is 50 years old and undersized, and is rapidly deteriorating and in need of rehabilitation or replacement.  Because of the necessity of maintaining existing traffic, a new bridge has to be constructed before work starts on the existing bridge.  No existing alternative route could be utilized as a detour during reconstruction of the existing bridge, because they are either too small (I-471) or way too long of a detour (I-275, see map below).  That leaves building a new span nearby, shifting the traffic to it, then replacing the existing span.

Creating a new alignment through Campbell County and eastern Hamilton County makes no sense whatsoever. 

Campbell County is located in the area labeled Newport on the map.  There are currently 2 interstate bridges crossing the river into the county, I-275 and I-471.  As you can see on the map, there are three major interstates traversing the region, I-71 (going to Louisville and Columbus), I-74 (going to Indianapolis) and I-75 (going to Detroit and Lexington).  All traffic from these three highways are currently routed through central Cincinnati and across the Brent Spence Bridge.  Interstates 71 and 75 continue to the southwest and later split further south from the bottom of this map.  There is no way to route a bridge from Campbell County to eastern Hamilton County and benefit the I-75 route in any way.  I-471 can already divert traffic from I-71, so this eastern bridge does nothing whatsoever on that side.  So why would the gubernatorial candidate propose a bridge there?  For future development:
But McDaniel said that the bridge decision should also include potential impacts on commercial development and that it is a "60-70 year decision, not just for the next three to five years."
"We should be looking to get the biggest bang that we can out of this ... so why not look at going through areas such as Newtown in Ohio?" he asked. "There is less and less developable land through the I-75 corridor. Why not use this as an opportunity to open up more development? It seems as if there was a foregone conclusion that this would be the site without enough examination of other options."
He also said he was also not convinced that a second look would cost the state any more money or time, but said he was sensitive to such concerns.
Why in the world would a Kentucky candidate for governor be proposing a new bridge to spur development in Ohio?  And who in the hell thinks the solution to Cincinnati's problems is more sprawl?  Most of the recent development in the region is along the I-75 corridor, so the governor candidate is proposing to abandon recently invested capital in order to invest new capital in another region.  That is the whole problem with suburbanization as it has been done over the last 60-70 years.  Apparently he has learned nothing from this.

Now, to the issue of cost-sharing.  Kentucky owns the bridge (and most of the Ohio River), and is thus responsible for the cost of construction according to the Federal Highway System.  Period.  Ohio is paying for all of the approach work on the north side of the bridge.  If you don't like that, Kentuckians, deed the Ohio River to the State of Ohio.

As for Northern Kentuckians paying the majority of the tolls, that is the point of a toll system, having the actual users pay for the project.  If that is Northern Kentuckians, so be it.

All of these issues are not recently discovered by the gubernatorial candidate.  They have been well known for decades.  Over the last decade, Ohio and Kentucky have been slowly working toward the much-needed replacement of the Brent Spence, and as always, funding is the big problem.  What is the solution to this for the leading gubernatorial ticket from the state and local government over federal government party?  Of course, federal funding:
Both said that the federal government needed to better fund the project, eliminating the need for tolls. In addition, Comer said he agreed with a funding proposal submitted by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., that would create a new federal fund for emergency transportation projects such as the Brent Spence by making it harder for companies to send capital overseas.
What a fucking joke.  Every day of delay in constructing the bridge adds cost to the project.  Studying a pointless location for a new bridge slows the project even further.  I hate the idea of tolls, and I hate the lack of transportation alternatives that 60-70 years of automobile-centric development has left us with.  But you come to a point where you have to bite the bullet, spend the money and take your much deserved beating for having such short-sighted development vision for so long (and not continue such vision by trying to develop new regions).  I'm all for federal funding, especially through an increased gas tax, but try to get the Republican Party in Congress to go along with that.  This clown show demonstrates how weak Republican Party ideas really are.  That these bomb-throwers come in so late in the process with so useless alternative ideas, and they are the leading figures in the race for governor indicates the bankruptcy of Republican governance.  Kentucky, please don't foist these idiots into this complex project.

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