Fiery crash closes bridge linking Ohio, Kentucky for extended period

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Brent Spence Bridge AP photo
Covington Police and Covington Fire departments work an accident and fire scene on the Brent Spence Bridge Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, in Covington, Kentucky. A fiery crash on the bridge linking Ohio and Kentucky could force the span to remain closed for days as intense heat from the blaze delayed inspections of the bridge that serves as a crucial link for interstate commerce, Kentucky’s governor said Wednesday. Officials say a truck hauling potassium hydroxide and another truck crashed on the northbound deck of the bridge Wednesday morning. (Albert Cesare/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)

CINCINNATI — A fiery crash on a bridge linking Ohio and Kentucky could force the span to remain closed for days as intense heat from the blaze delayed inspections of the bridge that serves as a crucial link for interstate commerce, Kentucky’s governor said Nov. 11.

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Closure of the Brent Spence Bridge caused detours along a major transportation artery connecting downtown Cincinnati with northern Kentucky across the Ohio River.

“The bridge, at best, will be closed several days,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in a virtual briefing. “But we ought to be prepared for more disruption, potentially significantly more disruption, than that.”

The fire was contained, but the extreme heat made the bridge too hot for bridge inspectors, Beshear said. Damage to the bridge and its concrete decking was visible, he said.

The governor warned that a closure lasting several days could be “optimistic.”

“We won’t have the details until those inspectors are there, but this is a serious accident and it is not outside the realm of possibility that we are looking at weeks,” Beshear said.

The crash occurred around 2:45 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11. The governor said the crash appeared to be caused when a northbound truck jackknifed on the bridge and was struck by another truck hauling potassium hydroxide. No injuries were reported.

The crash sparked the fire, with 400 gallons of diesel fuel being the main cause, officials said. An undetermined amount of diesel fuel spilled and burned in the fire. Officials said the potassium hydroxide contributed to the heat and duration of the fire, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

The closure of the bridge caused detours for motorists, and Beshear asked for patience during the inspection and repairs. Kentucky and Ohio officials said they’re committed to getting the bridge repaired and reopened as quickly as possible.

Kentucky transportation officials say the bridge carries about 160,000 vehicles a day.

“The Brent Spence Bridge is a vital component of our national highway system,” said Jack Marchbanks, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation. “A closure of any length will have a huge impact on the people who live and work in this region.”

Ohio and Kentucky officials are working with federal transportation officials “to keep people and goods moving,” Marchbanks said.

Officials stressed that safety will be paramount when doing the inspection and repairs.

“We’re going to make sure it’s safe for our personnel to go on to inspect,” Beshear said. “But then … when we reopen it, it’s going to be at a time when I would drive my family across it, so that our citizens can have confidence that it’s safe.”

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