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Brent Spence Bridge Study Recommends New Bridge, Still No Funding Plan

Michael Keating
The Brent Spence Bridge has been labeled structurally sound but functionally obsolete. Transportation officials have been studying the need for a new bridge for years.

The Kentucky Transportation Department (KYTC) says the consultants it hired to do a bridge study recommend building another bridge across the Ohio River to improve safety and travel on I-71 and I-75 between Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

This would be in addition to the Brent Spence Bridge.

It also recommends a proposed eastern bypass for further study.

"This study confirms what many already suspected-a new bridge is needed, as well as improvements to I-71/75 to address the explosive economic growth along this important transportation corridor," says Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin who commissioned the report.

It's still unclear who will pay for the bridge, now estimated to cost $2.3 billion in current year dollars and $2.6 billion in future dollars, assuming the bridge opens in 2024.

"It is also imperative that we stay focused on the economic development potential of a bypass," Bevin says.

He is requesting a planning study for the Kentucky portion of an eastern bypass be in the next highway plan.

Proposed new configurations on the existing and new bridges

The proposed new double-deck bridge includes six lanes to carry I-75 northbound and southbound traffic with three lanes in each direction. Drivers would have to choose their route before crossing the bridge, reducing the need to change lanes while on the bridge.

Credit Provided / Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
A new double-deck bridge would have six lanes. All lanes would be wider and there would be shoulders.

The proposed new bridge would be in addition to the Brent Spence Bridge, currently carrying more than twice the 80,000 vehicles per day it's supposed to be carrying. KYTC says it continues to work closely with the Ohio Department of Transportation to maintain the existing Brent Spence Bridge and prepare for painting in 2019. Routine maintenance was done in 2017.

The study also determines the Cincinnati Eastern Bypass project should be explored further. It would cost $3.6 billion in current year dollars and $5.3 billion in future dollars, assuming it would open to traffic in 2032.

Credit Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
The concept of an eastern bypass is recommended for further study. It is in purple.

The study also looks at congestion and safety issues at the I-275 interchange in Kentucky and recommends widening I-71/75 from Turfway Road north to the Brent Spence Bridge (near Dixie Highway). That is estimated to cost $289 million in current year dollars and $399 million in future dollars.

You can read the entire study here

The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce agrees with the recommendations.

"The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce concurs with Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s strategic study released today confirming the Brent Spence Bridge Replacement/Rehabilitation Project and Corridor is needed. For well over 15 years, the NKY Chamber has advocated for the need for this regionally significant economic development project in order for our economy to prosper. We fully support Governor Bevin's efforts to improve Kentucky's infrastructure, and applaud his pro-business approach toward our key regional projects. The NKY Consensus Committee, made up of over 70 business and civic leaders from around the region, recently came to the same conclusion that the reconstruction of the I-275 interchange and the Brent Spence Bridge corridor project are top road projects for our region to succeed. We look forward to working with our federal and state leaders to find viable funding to bring these projects to reality. "

Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) CEO Mark Policinski is weighing in on the bridge plan.

"The hardest part of this project lies ahead," he points out. "The Commonwealth and the State, along with their respective legislatures, must now come together to forge a financing plan. OKI stands ready to support this crucial work."

Here's his full statement:

"On behalf of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments, thank you to Governor Bevin and Secretary Thomas for their resolute leadership on the Brent Spence Bridge Strategic Corridor Study. Relying on facts and straightforward data, Governor Bevin promised a fresh look at the Brent Spence corridor with thorough evaluation of alternatives. He has delivered on his promise.
It is monumental to have confirmation on the necessity of a new bridge on the Brent Spence corridor, based on solid evidence and advanced traffic demand modeling. Importantly, the study also recommends the reconstruction of the I-275 interchange at I-71/75, which will relieve congestion along the entire corridor and spur economic development.
However, the hardest part of this project lies ahead. The Commonwealth and the State, along with their respective legislatures, must now come together to forge a financing plan. OKI stands ready to support this crucial work.

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber is also weighing in.

“The results of the Bevin study are a critical next step in moving the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project to construction,” said Tom Williams, Co-Chair of the Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition and president, North American Properties. “We believe the region is armed with the data needed to advance the Project and we encourage officials in Ohio and Kentucky, as well as the federal government, to continue working together to develop a financing plan for this project of national significance. We stand ready to assist in that process.”
“The Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition and Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber applaud Governor Bevin and his Administration for the thoughtful and deliberative approach to finding a solution to relieve the congestion and safety issues through the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor,” said Jill P. Meyer, president and CEO of the Cincinnati Chamber. “We are encouraged by Governor Bevin’s work to advance this project and look forward to continuing a partnership that will have significant positive economic impact on our region.”
“The Bevin study reaffirms the Brent Spence Bridge corridor is an immediate need for the future of our region,” said Williams. “Through polling, we know that 72% of voters across the region strongly believe fixing existing roads and highways is the top priority.”

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.