COVINGTON, Ky. — Repairs on the Brent Spence Bridge, which carries Interstate 71/75 across the Ohio River between Kentucky and Ohio, are under way. The two-level structure has been closed to traffic since it sustained heavy damage during a fiery truck crash Nov. 11.
On Nov. 18, Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray signed an order intended to encourage drivers of commercial trucks who are traveling north on Interstate 71/75 to stick to posted detours while the bridge is closed for repairs.
Northbound commercial vehicles traveling from Kentucky to Ohio are directed to detour onto Interstate 275 toward alternate crossings. However, some through drivers continue north on I-71/75 into downtown Covington, creating gridlock on local streets.
“The intention is not to penalize drivers but to prohibit large trucks from clogging local streets, creating traffic hazards and congestion,” Gray said. “Diverting drivers onto our established detours will keep traffic flowing as smoothly as possible during this limited bridge closure.”
Gray’s order, which will remain in effect until the bridge is reopened, empowers law-enforcement officers to prohibit commercial vehicles from bypassing the detour. Trucks making local deliveries are exempt. Violators can be ticketed. However, “we’re not looking for penalties,” Gray said. “We’re looking for cooperation.”
Gray announced the official order Nov. 18 while giving an update on the progress of the project to repair and reopen the bridge, which normally carries about 160,000 vehicles a day across the Ohio River.
During the week following the crash, a team assembled by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) inspected the damage, designed repairs and awarded a contract to Kokosing Construction Co. for the emergency project. The contract calls for the bridge to be reopened to traffic by Dec. 23.
“A week ago today, the bridge was on fire,” Gray said. “But a rigorous inspection after the fire showed the Brent Spence still to be a stout, sturdy structure. And today we are on the verge of beginning construction of the repairs that will return the bridge to public service.”
The first shipment of steel arrived Nov. 17 at a staging area in Frankfort, Kentucky, and the contractor mobilized crews and equipment on the bridge Nov. 18. Saw-cutting of the concrete structure is planned for Nov. 21, and removal of damaged sections should begin Nov. 22.