After a fiery crash involving two semitrucks forced the closure of the Brent Spence Bridge connecting Covington to Cincinnati earlier this week, Governor Andy Beshear and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) Secretary Jim Gray provided updates on the status of the bridge Thursday afternoon.
“Everyone recognizes the importance of the Brent Spence Bridge and the entire I-71 and I-75 corridor. We are committed – fully committed – to reopening this bridge as quickly as we can, provided it is fully safe for everyone that would cross it,” Beshear said. “I want to emphasize our need for patience and also planning for your personal and business disruption that’s going to be occurring for at least the next several weeks. We need a little patience as well until we can give you an official timeline.”
Secretary Gray spent Thursday on-site at the bridge and spoke to the damage and challenge ahead.
“We are taking vigorous steps with the most talented engineers in order to assess the damage and get the bridge reopened to traffic,” Secretary Gray said. “But we know under the best case, we have repairs that will take weeks to execute. So, it is important that our businesses, our commercial traffic and residents prepare for this.”
In addition to their comments, Beshear and Gray provided the following updates:
- In coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Ohio River for commercial and recreational water vessels, has reopened.
- The recovery project is moving on multiple tracks at once: while inspectors examine the damage and collect samples for materials testing, engineers are designing specific repairs in real time.
- While inspections are underway, KYTC is securing the vendors, supplies and contractors that will be needed regardless of the design specifics of the repair project.
- KYTC is working with officials on both the Ohio and Kentucky sides of the river to reopen the historic Roebling Bridge, upriver from the Brent Spence, to passenger traffic. Covington police closed the bridge to motor vehicles Wednesday night after large commercial trucks were seen going onto the bridge in defiance of its 11-ton weight limit and posted warning signs. The pedestrian walkway is open to foot traffic.
The Brent Spence Bridge carried between 150,000 and 200,000 vehicles per day before its forced closure, according to estimates from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments. A major truck freight corridor, the bridge was estimated to carry roughly 3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product each year.
“We appreciate the work of Governor Beshear, Secretary Gray, and all the transportation officials working diligently to repair and reopen the Brent Spence Bridge. While this was an unexpected, isolated incident, we recognize that this bridge is more than 60 years old and is carrying far more weight than its designed capacity,” said Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Ashli Watts.
Watts continued by calling for long-term solutions to address transportation needs to and from northern Kentucky and Cincinnati.
“As the bridge continues to age, we must acknowledge that it will only become more difficult and more costly to assess damage and make repairs in the future. We need to start talking about long-term solutions for transportation in this region, which will undoubtedly require additional investment in our infrastructure. Kentucky’s business community stands ready to start having these conversations about investing in our future,” Watts said.