FRANKFORT, Ky. — Repairs to the Brent Spence Bridge are expected to be complete and all lanes open to traffic Dec. 22, a day ahead of the projected Dec. 23 completion date, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) Secretary Jim Gray announced. Travel lanes and access ramps leading to the bridge will gradually reopen to full capacity throughout the afternoon and evening, once lane striping on the upper and lower decks is complete.
The Brent Spence Bridge, which carries Interstates 71 and 75 across the Ohio River between Covington, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio, has been closed since Nov. 11, when two commercial trucks crashed and burst into flames, damaging the structure.
Multiple safety inspections took place throughout the course of the repair project; the final inspection was completed Dec. 21, paving the way for the gradual reopening of the bridge and the travel lanes and ramps that support access to it.
“We are pleased to reopen the Brent Spence Bridge ahead of schedule and return one of the nation’s busiest and most important economic travel corridors to public use,” Beshear said. “I commend the dedicated employees of the Transportation Cabinet for working with deliberate speed and adhering to strict safety guidelines in a time of unprecedented uncertainty in our great state.”
Gray echoed the Beshear’s comments and underscored the determination crews brought to the repair project.
“We conquered a combination of factors that challenged our ability to complete this project on time, including a global health pandemic and winter weather, and still delivered on our promise to return a safe and sound bridge to the traveling public before the holidays,” Gray said. “Along with repairing the bridge, we also focused our attention on traffic management to maintain reliable connections for travelers. Ensuring safe roadways is a partnership between KYTC and the public, and I appreciate everyone’s commitment and contribution to keeping our roads safe.”
An assessment of damage to the bridge began as soon as a team of inspectors could safely access the site after the Nov. 11 crash. A team of more than 20 national and local bridge inspectors surveyed the two-deck span and conducted tests to ensure the structure’s integrity was not compromised. Less than a week after the closure, KYTC awarded a $3.1 million contract to prime contractor, Kokosing Construction Co. of Westerville, Ohio, with a target reopening date of Dec. 23.
Repairs to the bridge included:
- Replacing 16 steel beams that were damaged by the fire;
- Pouring new upper deck driving surface and concrete barrier wall;
- Pouring new layer of concrete on lower deck and new concrete barrier wall;
- Removing and installing drainage system;
- Installing new overhead lights; and
- Restriping new concrete on upper and lower decks.
The structure, which was designed to carry 80,000 to 100,000 vehicles per day across the Ohio River, now carries approximately twice that number of vehicles. Discussions continue between KYTC and its partner agency, the Ohio Department of Transportation, about plans to build a companion bridge to the west of the existing bridge to increase capacity.
Given the expectation that the existing bridge will remain in service for many years to come, ensuring the long-term safety of the bridge and the routes leading to and from it is of increased significance.
KYTC crews completed a number of maintenance projects on and around the bridge while traffic was restricted to minimize future traffic interruptions and maximize efficiency. These included significant drainage repairs on the northbound side of I-71/75, just south of the bridge; cleaning overhead signs on the lower deck, and repaving and restriping the northbound approach lanes.
Gray also announced plans for KYTC to install new hazardous material signage in Northern Kentucky to increase awareness of the long-standing hazardous-material restriction north of I-275 between I-71/75 and the Ohio state line.
“We listened and then we held conversations at the local, state and federal levels regarding the hazmat restrictions in the area. We share the desire to install signage to reinforce the restrictions, which drivers who plan their routes should know,” Gray said. “It’s worthwhile to remember that the amount of potassium hydroxide transported by one of the vehicles in the crash was well below the federal threshold of what is considered hazardous material, so it was allowed to cross the bridge. While it’s every driver’s responsibility to know and obey the rules of the road, we’ll do everything we can to provide information.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation authorized up to $12 million in emergency relief reimbursement funding for the repair project. Gray said the final expenses likely will be as little as half that amount.