Replacing the Brent Spence Bridge is the singularly most daunting project that will remain on the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Government’s front burner for years to come.

Mark Policinski, OKI’s executive director, says his organization is taking pains to build true consensus around a configuration for the bridge to ensure a united front when Ohio and Kentucky leaders seek funding in Washington.

Engineers are investigating four alternatives for replacing the bridge that carries Interstates 75 and 71 across the Ohio River. The first two would include building a span whose ramps stretch into the Queensgate area west of Downtown. The third and fourth options would place bridges just west of the Brent Spence. All four alternatives will likely force the relocation of Duke Energy’s West End substation, which supplies electricity for all of Downtown and part of Northern Kentucky. Relocating the substation is itself a monumental project that Duke estimates will cost at least $22.5 million in 2008 dollars.

The relocation will take between two and two-and-one-half years from the day the move is authorized, Duke estimates.

“There has to be very detailed planning that’s done so that the services can be relocated without interrupting services,” says Steve Brash, a Duke spokesman.

The substation move is only one of myriad problems to solve for transportation officials. OKI has assembled a working group including Cincinnati, Covington and county leaders from Ohio and Kentucky to help organize the slow process and keep everyone on the same page as much as possible.

Duke, Cincinnati and Covington oppose the two Queensgate alternatives, and Cincinnati and Covington are split between the other two remaining options, opposing the configuration of some access to the bridge. Duke estimates the Queensgate options could cost as much as $87 million due to the need to relocate a field of power lines and other equipment.

Policinski is confident that the alternatives can be tweaked to accommodate both cities. He and the rest of the working group are pushing for a single recommended alternative to be decided this fall.

The next step would be determining the extent of the environmental impact review. OKI and others will press hard for the shortest review to keep the project moving.

Policinski says Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky and Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio have emphasized how valuable a united local front would be to their efforts to secure scarce federal dollars for the project.

“We’re hoping we can have a consensus solution. Our belief is that it will shorten the timeline because you would have the buy-in from the communities,” Policinski says.

In the meantime, he adds, the bridge will be crowded but physically safe.

“The bridge is sound for 55 more years.”