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Brent Spence Bridge Emergency Repair Named 'Project Of The Year'

Brent Spence Bridge
Courtesy of KYTC
A construction crew member works on the Brent Spence Bridge Dec. 15, 2020.

Emergency repairs to reopen the Brent Spence Bridge following a truck crash and fire in November have been deemed a Public Works Project Of The Year.

The project was awarded by the American Public Works Association in the category of disaster or emergency construction repair less than $5 million. In a release, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said contractors from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet turned a crisis into an accomplishment.

"The expert repairs not only led to the quick reopening of an economically significant corridor during a bustling holiday season, but it preserved the safe condition of a bridge that will remain in service for decades to come,” Beshear said.

Last November, the bridge closed after two tractor-trailers collided on the bridge’s lower deck, causing fire damage. After 41 days, the bridge was reopened to traffic, fully restored, under budget and ahead of schedule.

KYTC Secretary Jim Gray said it would be hard to imagine a more challenging scenario.

"Abrupt loss of a critical connection on one of the busiest commercial corridors in the eastern United States. A global COVID pandemic. And winter weather," Gray said. "We conquered this combination of factors by quickly assembling a great team, being innovative and then working night and day without letup.”

Maintenance is currently underway to clean and paint the bridge. The project is scheduled to be completed by Nov. 15. This is just the third time the bridge has been painted. The first was when it was built and again in 1991. According to the KYTC, it takes more than 35,000 gallons of paint to cover the bridge's over 1.5 million-square feet of surface area.

The bridge is the third most heavily traveled bridge in the country and has been on the federal government's list of "functionally obsolete" infrastructure since the mid-1990s. A $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill is set to be voted on that could bring funds to repair the bridge. A proposed $2.6 billion plan would repair the existing Brent Spence and build a new bridge beside it to spread out the traffic load.

The I-71/75 bridge carries 160,000-plus vehicles and more than $1 billion worth of freight each day, or more than $400 billion in freight annually.

Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.