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Covington mayor tells commission Brent Spence project an ‘existential threat’ to city revitalization

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

Calling it an “existential threat” to the city’s revitalization, Covington Mayor Joseph U. Meyer spoke out against the Brent Spence Corridor Project as Commissioners wrapped up their regularly scheduled caucus meeting Tuesday night.

Meeting virtually due to COVID-19, Mayor Meyer and Commissioners went through their entire agenda. Then, at the end of the meeting — a time that is normally reserved for Commissioners to make comments about items that aren’t on the night’s schedule — Meyer produced a compelling PowerPoint presentation in opposition to the Brent Spence Corridor Project.

“The bottom line here is, (this project is) an existential threat to Covington’s revitalization,” he said. “It’s just an example of bad planning.”

Why? The Mayor provided many reasons.

First, he described a timeline. In 2017, Covington came out in opposition to the idea of tolls, for a number of reasons. Last week, representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as the chambers from Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and the Commonwealth of Kentucky, renewed talk of the Brent Spence Corridor Project, a decades-old idea to expand the bridge to alleviate traffic — possibly by utilizing tolls.

In 2013, it was slated to be a $2.3 billion project, with Ohio and Kentucky each paying for its own side.

The problems with the idea? The Mayor listed them:

• The idea doesn’t replace the Brent Spence Bridge. The $71 million price tag will only refurbish it.
Instead, the plan calls for the building of another bridge, located right next to the Brent Spence. It would be three times the size of the Brent Spence, and would create a 400 percent increase in the use of space. “This just eviscerates our city,” Mayor Meyer said. Commissioner Michelle Williams agreed, noting that the Lewisburg neighborhood would essentially disappear.

• Studies — and recent evidence from Louisville — indicate that any toll placed on a bridge will just send traffic to other bridges. Meyer indicated this will take traffic away from Covington’s businesses, causing them to suffer, while also sending too many cars to the other bridges.

• The equity issue. People from Kentucky, who make up 60 percent of the traffic coming across the bridge to Cincinnati, will pay tolls, which will subsidize upgrades on the Cincinnati side of the bridge. Meyer asked how that is fair.

• The plan is based on knowledge that is 20 years old. Back then, studies indicated 230,000 vehicles would drive across the bridge every day. In fact, only 170,000 cars drive on the bridge every day.

So, what needs to be done? Mayor Meyer said there are a few things:

• Reduce the size of the plan, he said. There does not need to be 16 lanes of traffic. He proposes 10-12.

• Protect the other bridges, like the Roebling. “We can’t let it literally fall into the river,” Meyer said.

• Protect Covington’s businesses, and compensate these owners for the negative impact they will see from less traffic coming their way.

• No tolls on the other bridges.

• Revisit the idea of the Texas Turnaround, which was originally proposed by city officials five years ago. It suggests having a lane specifically designed for drivers to safely make a U-turn onto a highway.

• Revisit the assumptions and timing of the entire project.

The Mayor said there will be more things to do going forward to help with the issue, but first, the Commission must be strong advocates for the city.

“We need to have the thing started over in a much more reasonable way to protect our community,” Meyer said. “It’s so very important for our neighborhoods and our businesses.”

Code of Ordinances

Commissioners are now one step closer to readopting the city’s Code of Ordinances — for the first time in 37 years.

As Mayor Meyer said, the state requires cities to recodify city ordinances every five years, but most cities see that as a guide and not a mandate.

For Covington, it’s a task that hasn’t been officially completed since 1984. But now, a re-adoption of the Code of Ordinances is in motion. Next week, Commissioners will hear a first reading of the updated code.

“Hopefully, we’ll continue to update this going forward,” City Solicitor Michael Bartlett said.

“After 37 years, this is quite an accomplishment,” Mayor Meyer said. “We’ll finally be in compliance with state law.”

The new code’s first reading will be held next week, with a second reading and vote held March 23.

Covington Community Montessori

Commissioners heard a proposal for nearly $23,000 in TIF funds for the Covington Community Montessori on 131 E. 5th St.

The development assistance agreement would provide financial incentives to help pay for some outside updates, including installing a new 6-inch tapping sleeve and valve in the street. The exterior work totals $22,979 and should be complete in six months.

Covington Community Montessori opened Sept. 8, 2020, and enrolled 80 children. Due to the pandemic and building code challenges, students have been learning online this school year. Due to payroll taxes, the city should get its investment back in three years, city officials say.

The proposal was placed on next week’s consent agenda.

Sidewalk Replacement

Commissioners heard a proposal to replace the sidewalk on West Pike Street from Hermes Avenue to about 560 feet south of Western Avenue.

Staff requested bids for the removal and replacement of existing concrete sidewalk with new concrete sidewalk. There were six bids received, and Hendy, Inc., was the lowest at $142,370. Funds will be paid from CDBG/Ripple funds.

Commissioners decided to put the proposal on next week’s consent agenda.

Urban Forestry Plan

Commissioners heard an update and proposal from Cassandra Homan, the city’s urban forester, on the outreach plan the group is developing as part of the Urban Forestry Master Plan. The group developed a survey, and — working alongside Xavier University — they plan to get survey participation and find people to participate in more focused discussions related to the master plan. Pending additional comments and Commission approval, the group wants to go live with the survey and begin contacting stakeholders in March.

The proposal was placed on next week’s consent agenda.


Commissioners approved a resolution for former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Donald C. Wintersheimer, who passed away last week.

Mayor Meyer reminded viewers that next week, there will be a second reading and vote on two ordinances, including one to approve the city’s Historic Guidelines.

Next meeting

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a legislative meeting held at 6 p.m., March 9. The meetings can be followed live on Fioptics channel 815, Spectrum channel 203, the Telecommunications Board of Northern Kentucky (TBNK) website, the TBNK Facebook page @TBNKonline, and the TBNK Roku channels.

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