The U.S. transportation system is the lifeblood of our communities, our economy, and our country. In a country that grows things and makes things, we must be able to move freight quickly, safely, and efficiently to meet the needs of businesses and consumers and to fuel economic development.
Ohio’s transportation system is of critical importance to the nation. Ohio is the crossroads of America, with 60% of the U.S. and Canadian populations within a day’s drive, making the state one of the leading states for transporting freight and needed supplies throughout North America. In fact, Ohio has the fifth-largest Interstate System in the country and the second-largest inventory of bridges.
Within weeks of taking office as Governor, we made transportation a priority, working to address a critical funding shortfall that would have been devastating to our ability to maintain roads and bridges and keep our economy moving. Thanks to partnerships with the Ohio General Assembly and the transportation industry, the Ohio Department of Transportation and our local governments have been able to invest an additional $2.5 billion over the past three years into Ohio’s transportation infrastructure. We have also invested $450 million into traffic safety projects, addressing problems at 150 of the state’s most dangerous intersections.
Yet there is still much more work to do. Much of the U.S. Interstate System was designed and built in the 1960s. Think about how different our cities, our economy, and our lifestyles looked back then. Many cities today experience heavy congestion and, as a result, many accidents because the roadways are carrying significantly more traffic than they were designed to 60 years ago.
This problem can best be illustrated by the Brent Spence Bridge, a pivotal trucking route in the Midwest that carries I-75 and I-71 over the Ohio River in Cincinnati. The inadequacy of the bridge is infamous throughout the nation. In February, the American Transportation Research Institute recognized it as the second-worst truck bottleneck in the country. Last year, it became the poster child for the passage of the congressional Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
The Brent Spence Bridge, built in 1963, was designed to carry 80,000 vehicles a day. Today, it carries nearly twice that, often resulting in long backups that cost businesses and travelers considerable time and money. The bottleneck on the bridge has hindered economic development and slowed supply chain deliveries. The traffic overload has also contributed to serious accidents.
A second, companion bridge is desperately needed to alleviate the constant bumper-to-bumper traffic and keep our economy moving. Ohio and Kentucky have been working together for about two decades on a solution, but the project has been held up by its price tag — nearly $3 billion.
In February, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and I renewed our commitment to the Brent Spence Bridge Project and applied for a federal grant to help fund it. Already, both of our states have committed significant financial resources to the project. Ohio, alone, has invested billions of dollars in improving I-75 to support business expansion, manufacturing growth, and product deliveries.
The Brent Spence Bridge Corridor project represents one of the last remaining pieces needed to modernize the entire interstate through Ohio. I am very optimistic we will break ground within the next two years, finally solving a decades-long problem that has plagued this vital corridor.
Completion of this project stands to bolster the economic vitality of businesses throughout Greater Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, and the Midwest. Both sides of the river are ready to grow, and with additional lanes of travel, transportation will no longer be a roadblock to that growth. Upon completion of the project, the supply chain will flow freely, commuters will be able to get to their jobs in less time, and visitors will not be intimidated by the drive.
As we await a decision on our grant request, Ohio and Kentucky continue to prepare for construction and move toward project readiness because this vital project isn’t one that our states or our nation can afford to put off for long.
• Ohio Governor Mike DeWine previously served as Ohio’s Attorney General, a U.S. senator, Ohio’s lieutenant governor, a U.S. representative, an Ohio senator, and Greene County’s prosecuting attorney.