Rand Paul Visits Rotary

by Editor on October 6, 2015

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.

Pat LaFleur: FLORENCE, Ky. — U.S. senator and GOP presidential hopeful Rand Paul visited the Tri-State Monday.

One of the regional issues he addressed? The Brent Spence Bridge.

“I have heard of the bridge problem,” Paul joked during his visit to the Rotary Club in Florence Monday afternoon.

A tea party darling, known for his concerted dedication to limiting the scope of the federal government, Paul said that he supports a plan to build a replacement for the aging Brent Spence, which spans the Ohio River along the crowded Interstate 75 corridor.

“I’m for a new bridge,” Paul said Monday.

Rand Paul chats with Florence Rotarian Joy Hodges.

Rand Paul chats with Florence Rotarian Joy Hodges.

Paul said he would bring new federal money to the Brent Spence project through his proposed amendment to House Bill 22 — a.k.a. the DRIVE Act — a measure, he said, that would bolster the shrinking Highway Trust Fund by reappropriating as much as $2 trillion in foreign earnings being held overseas back into the trust, making it available for infrastructure improvements.

Paul also criticized the prioritization of beautification projects over highway upgrades.

“I’m all for beautification,” he said, “but…I think redoing the bridge is more important than flowerbeds.”

Paul said he hopes to get the amendment attached to the highway bill later this fall.

Paul isn’t the only bluegrass legislator to suggest boosting the Highway Trust Fund as a means to finance a new Brent Spence Bridge. Representative Thomas Massie, R-KY, was one of the DRIVE Act’s chief sponsors when it was proposed earlier this year .

Massie’s proposal would divert funds away from alternative transportation projects like bike lanes and mass transit in order to free up more dollars for highway projects.

Paul’s plan to funnel federal dollars into the Brent Spence project stands somewhat at odds with a controversial bill before Kentucky’s General Assembly , which would have funded the $2.6 billion replacement plan through state-level public-private partnerships and tolls. The bill passed the Kentucky House but never emerged from the Senate.

Both Gov. John Kasich and Gov. Steve Beshear have said tolls are a “necessary evil,” saying the federal government can’t — or won’t — foot the entire bill for the massive project.

“(Unless there’s) some alien spaceship that’s going to come down here and dump billions on the street, I don’t see a way around (tolls),” Kasich told reporters last year.

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes — who gained national attention in her unsuccessful attempt to unseat Kentucky Senator and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — said during a recent visit to Braxton Brewing Company that replacing the Brent Spence Bridge is critical to Northern Kentucky’s economic revitalization.

“One way or another, we must build this bridge, and we must get started quickly,” she said.

Grimes opposed tolls as a financing option during her campaign for McConnell’s Senate seat in 2014.