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Kentucky and Ohio officials are pushing forward to build a companion to the Brent Spence Bridge after both governors recently applied for a $1.66 billion federal mega infrastructure grant to improve the notorious bottlenecked 8-mile freight corridor.
The Brent Spence Bridge, which carries Interstate 71 and I-75 over the Ohio River, supports 160,000 vehicles daily and 43 million tons of truck freight, twice the capacity it was designed to safely accommodate when it opened in 1963.
Interstate 75 is a key freight corridor from Canada to Florida, so the slowdowns also impact commerce throughout the eastern United States.
Gov. Mike DeWine (left) and Gov. Andrew Beshear by brentspencebridgecorridor.com.
An industry forum on the project convened June 7 with transportation officials from each state among stakeholders to discuss building the new companion I-71/75 bridge west of the current Brent Spence Bridge, with substantial completion expected by January 2029.
A major feature of this project is to separate local and interstate traffic between the existing and new bridges to reduce congestion, improve safety and increase access to businesses and local communities in Covington and Cincinnati, according to forum presentations.
The current Brent Spence Bridge will be designated for local traffic and its four lanes on each deck will be reduced to three with significant widening of inside and outside shoulders.
Interstate through traffic will use the companion bridge, connecting I-71 and U.S. 50E. Ohio has completed 90% of its right of way (ROW) acquisitions with two remaining buildings to demolish. Kentucky will remove up to 21 structures and is acquiring property for its ROW plans.
Interstate improvements also will be made on either side of both bridges throughout an 8-mile corridor from Dixie Highway in Kentucky to the Western Hills Viaduct interchange in Ohio.
When completed, the corridor will have additional capacity in an area that now carries an estimated 3% of the nation’s annual gross domestic product.
The joint project team within the Ohio Department of Transportation and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is preparing plans, coordinating with utility companies and meeting stakeholders. This month, the team is expected to complete its value engineering process to seek ways to lower overall construction costs.
Kentucky Gov. Andrew Beshear (D) and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced May 24 they applied for a Multimodal Projects Discretionary Grant to cover 60% of the remaining $2.77 billion project cost. Both states will pay for half of the new bridge. Each will be responsible for work on its side of the border and allocate significant amounts of its state and other federal funds to the project.
“I pledged to fight for every available federal dollar and have a shovel-ready project once funding is secured. The time is now to invest in transformative infrastructure that supports our growing workforce and safe travel along one of the nation’s most important commerce corridors,” Beshear noted in the announcement.
The grant application contained over 200 letters of support from public officials, associations and businesses from Kentucky and Ohio.
DeWine stated, “For decades, the backups on the Brent Spence Bridge have frustrated drivers, hindered economic development, and slowed supply chain deliveries. Today, a solution is in reach, and we are committed to aggressively working together to secure this funding to help us fix this transportation nightmare once and for all.”
Rick Taylor, president and CEO of the Frankfort-based Kentucky Trucking Association, backs efforts to improve the Brent Spence Bridge corridor.
“Truck freight in Kentucky is extremely important since 89.4% of our communities depend solely on trucks to deliver goods for them. We have a lot of manufacturing in Kentucky. Our No. 1 exports are aerospace products and we are now third on auto and truck production. A ton of manufactured goods are produced here so obviously we need to get the raw materials in and the finished products out,” Taylor said.
He noted that the traffic congestion is costing companies time and money while consuming fuel, which releases environmental emissions. Ranking in second place on the 2022 Top Truck Bottlenecks List from the American Transportation Research Institute was downtown Cincinnati’s I-71/I-75 intersection just north of the Brent Spence Bridge.
Currently, the U.S. Department of Transportation is reviewing multimodal grant applications, which were due May 23. In March, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg unveiled the single multimodal grant umbrella to include the new National Infrastructure Project Assistance program under the bipartisan infrastructure law to fund major large or complex projects supporting significant multi-jurisdictional or regional projects of national and regional significance. DOT will award 50% of funding to projects greater than $500 million.
Both states have launched a website with updates, documents, maps and other project information at: https://brentspencebridgecorridor.com/.
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