- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Beshear: Waiting to build crucial bridge costly

COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear warned Monday that it will cost taxpayers $7 million every month lawmakers do not take action to replace the Brent Spence Bridge that connects northern Kentucky with Cincinnati.

The 50-year old bridge has no emergency shoulder and now carries twice the amount of traffic it was built to handle. And the American Transportation Institute said the bridge is the fourth most congested area for trucks in the country.

But the $2.6 billion project has languished for years because northern Kentucky state lawmakers have adamantly opposed using tolls to pay for the bridge. They argue more people commute to Cincinnati from Kentucky than vice versa, so Kentucky drivers would pay more for the cost of the bridge.

Beshear told the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce on Monday that “we’re going to build this (bridge) sometime,” and he said waiting five years will add another $400 million to the price tag, using a 3 percent inflation figure from the Federal Highway Administration.

“Guess where that is going to come from? You know the answer. That’s going to come from you in some form or fashion either in taxes or in tolls or both,” Beshear said. “We have to act now to control that cost and keep that cost as low as possible.”

But opponents of tolls say the majority of the project’s cost comes not from replacing the 1,800-foot bridge but the proposed improvements to the 7.8 miles of highway leading up to the bridge on both sides of the river.

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Judge denies W.Va. ex-coal baron travel home for holidays

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) - A judge won’t let a West Virginia ex-coal baron facing criminal charges head home for the holidays.

A docket entry on Monday shows U.S. District Judge Irene Berger in Beckley denied ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship’s motion to travel home for the holidays.

During his case, Blankenship’s travel is restricted to southern West Virginia, Pike County, Kentucky, and Washington, D.C. Other travel needs judicial approval.

Blankenship now has a home in Nevada, but it’s unclear if that’s where he wanted to travel.

The case’s court filings are unavailable to the public under a gag order, which The Associated Press and other media are challenging.

Blankenship is charged with conspiring to violate safety and health standards at Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. A 2010 explosion there killed 29 men.

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Public favors more development in Ky. portion of Breaks

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Public comments so far have been favorable toward a proposal to increase development on the Kentucky side of Breaks Interstate Park.

The park encompasses about 4,800 acres on the Kentucky-Virginia border and is supported by both states.

Park officials are getting public comments on a proposed master plan that calls for a Kentucky gateway, road improvements, trail shelters and additional campsites.

Park Superintendent Austin Bradley told The Appalachian News-Express (http://bit.ly/1weuLgZ) that several people who spoke at a recent meeting held by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation favored the plan for more development on the Kentucky side.

“There were no negative comments,” Bradley said. “There was a lot of appreciation of the recognition of the need for development on the Kentucky side.”

He says the most-raised issue was a lack of access to the park in Kentucky.

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Man enters guilty plea in deadly crash

RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) - An Indiana man has entered a guilty plea in connection to a crash in central Kentucky that killed two people.

The Richmond Register (http://bit.ly/1vgFqZc) reports Bryan Mangan of South Bend, Indiana, entered the plea on Friday, saying he had consumed a “bunch of beers” the evening of Feb. 9 before the crash that killed 22-year-old Meredith L. Buscher of Richmond and 30-year-old Jeffrey Campbell of Louisville. The two were struck after leaving their cars to try to help others in a crash on Interstate 75 in Richmond.

Prosecutors are recommending a total sentence of 11 years on charges of wanton endangerment, drunken driving and tampering with evidence.

Formal sentencing was set for Feb. 27 in Madison Circuit Court.

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Information from: Richmond Register, http://www.richmondregister.comhttp://www.richmondregister.com

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