A U.S. Senate committee is approving the Bridge Investment Act to aid in repairing and replacing outdated and deficient bridges like the Brent Spence.
The act, sponsored by senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), is part of the larger Transportation Infrastructure Act. The Senate Finance Committee must now figure out how to pay for the $287 billion highway bill.
The bridge act calls for $3.265 billion over five years for fixing bridges. The Ohio senators say half of that funding would go toward large projects like the Brent Spence. An additional $3.265 billion could be authorized, per the bill, to fund the program in the future.
Money could also go to Cincinnati's Western Hills Viaduct project.
The program requires all grant-funded projects use American-made steel and iron.
"Our goal is to pass (the highway act) by the end of the year then begin to work with the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Kentucky Department of Transportation," Brown said during a media tele-conference Wednesday, adding he'll also work with Portman and Kentucky senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to get the bill passed.
"I'm glad that the Bridge Investment Act will be included in the highway bill because this bipartisan legislation will get us that much closer towards a safe and modern replacement for the Brent Spence Bridge," Portman said in a statement.
President Donald Trump has endorsed America's Transportation Infrastructure Act on Twitter.
Brown was less enthusiastic about the president's support, saying he's "been of no help on this." Brown argues money for a previous infrastructure bill was instead targeted for the president's tax cuts.
"Well, sure, he'll sign it if it comes to him, but you need presidential leadership to make it happen and they've got to find the money to pay for it," Brown said.
The current Brent Spence Bridge price tag, including three miles of approach in Ohio and five miles in Kentucky, is $2.6 billion.
Mark Policinski, CEO of the Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI), says OKI is thankful to Brown and Portman for getting the Bridge Investment Act included in the highway bill. He likes that it allows larger and smaller projects to be separated.
"It really does provide an avenue for us to get funding here in this region for projects like the Brent Spence Bridge and the Western Hills Viaduct," Policinski tells WVXU.