COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Northern Kentucky business leaders have come out in support of tolls to help pay for a project that would relieve traffic congestion at a major bridge that spans the Ohio River.
The $2.6 billion project would build a new span alongside the Brent Spence Bridge, which connects Cincinnati and Covington, Ky. It also would renovate the current 50-year-old span.
The Kentucky Enquirer (http://bit.ly/1dJt8je) reports the first public endorsement for tolls came last week when a group of eight executives at some of the region's largest employers signed a letter to the newspaper expressing support for the idea.
"The time has come for action and we are ready to act," they said in a letter to The Enquirer. Signatures on the letter included executives from The Bank of Kentucky, Corporex, Citi, Duke Energy, The Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation, St. Elizabeth Healthcare and Toyota.
"As an organization of committed community leaders, we are stepping into the middle of the bridge debate because waiting is simply not an option," they said. "We have grown tired of the 'what-ifs' and 'maybes' that have been part of this debate for far too long. We are disappointed and troubled by those in our community - some of whom are elected leaders and public servants - who are offering nothing more to this debate than fear and stonewalling."
In addition, the board of directors at the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce voted on Wednesday to change its position on the issue, saying the project won't happen without tolls.
"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."
David Heidrich, general manager of Zalla Cos. and treasurer of the chamber board, said he hopes it will spur state lawmakers to take action.
"Hopefully it can give members of our caucus, who I believe privately will acknowledge reality ... the ability to now come forward and publicly support it. And frankly, we should expect them to," Heidrich said. "If they don't, it will be unfortunate for our community, because it will say to the rest of the state, 'We don't have to pay attention to Northern Kentucky because they will self-implode like they do on every other issue.' "
Information from: The Kentucky Enquirer, http://www.nky.com