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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Billboard Sparks New Fire in Brent Spence Bridge Debate

This billboard ad sparked controversy and was quickly changed after being posted Wednesday./BONBN

More controversy has crossed the Brent Spence debate, this time involving a new billboard ad.

The ad in question, which was placed on a digital billboard just before reaching the bridge on I-71/75 northbound on Tuesday, is a bright yellow ad with bold black lettering, reading:


The ad was placed by the Build Our New Bridge Now (BONBN) coalition, a group of individuals and organizations advocating for the speedy construction of a new bridge to replace the Brent Spence Bridge.

The organization has also expressed approval of the Kentucky and Ohio governors announcement last week that they would include bridge tolls in financing the project.

Citing two major traffic accidents on the bridge over the last two days, one involving a family trapped in their vehicle after being wedged under a semi-truck, BONBN Director Matt Davis said in a statement that drivers should know about "the very real safety concerns in the corridor."

"Our coalition was created to urge elected officials and policy makers to rebuild the structurally obsolete, congested, and decaying Brent Spence Bridge Corridor," Davis said. "Given the fact that there have been two significant wrecks on the span in the last two days in Covington, we believe it's important to tell commuters."

But the ad, which remained posted for less than 24 hours, sparked sharp commentary from anti-toll activists, claiming that the ad illegally warns about false hazards on a major interstate highway.

Marissa McNee, spokesperson for NKY United, an anti-tolling group, said, "This (billboard) was a serious threat to public safety given that Lamar Digital Billboards are actually used by local DOTs (Departments of Transportation) to issue traffic safety warnings." 

The ad was reportedly removed from the billboard Thursday morning, and replaced with a different one, now with a blue background and white lettering. The wording has also changed, according to an Enquirer report, to say that the bridge is "wasting your time and money."

"We're not really disputing the content," McNee is quoted in the Enquirer. "We're disputing the look of the sign and whether it imitates a traffic safety warning that could cause an accident or cause traffic diversion onto local streets."

Covington City Commissioner Steve Frank, who has also spoken out against tolls, also came out against the billboard in a Facebook post Thursday morning, saying, "Build Our Bridge Now owes the entire community an apology for putting our drivers' safety at risk."

Frank's post goes on to call the billboard "frat boy antics," and accuses the coalition of killing the anti-heroin bill during last year's session of the State Assembly by adding pro-tolls amendments in the final hour.

The Enquirer report also mentions the BONBN Director has commented that the ad content was changed on Thursday as part of a larger strategy to continually change their message on a regular basis, and not as a response to threats made by NKY United to file a complaint.

This story will be updated as it develops.

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