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You can still weigh in on Brent Spence Bridge corridor revamp designs

A rendering of the proposed companion span for the Brent Spence Bridge
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet/Ohio Department of Transportation
A rendering of the proposed companion span for the Brent Spence Bridge

Residents of Cincinnati and Covington got the chance to view designs for a revamped Brent Spence Bridge Corridor this week — and to give transportation officials their feedback.

The project to expand the capacity of the 60-year-old Brent Spence by adding a companion bridge and other improvements has been a long time in the making. Officials with the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet say they've refined earlier designs quite a bit.

"Sometime early on in the project, it was talked about (as) a replacement project," KYTC BSBC Project Manager Stacee Hans told Covington residents at a public input session Wednesday. "We are not replacing the Brent Spence Bridge. We're adding an additional structure immediately to the west to add capacity to the corridor."

That new span will be part of an eight-mile project from the Western Hills Viaduct in Cincinnati to just south of Dixie Highway in Covington. The actual secondary bridge will carry drivers on I-71 and I-75, while the current Brent Spence will carry local traffic. Before the bridge, that traffic will travel via what ODOT and KYTC are calling a "collector-distributor" system from 12th Street in Covington to Ezzard Charles Drive in Cincinnati.

A few dozen residents gathered at Covington's public input session Wednesday. Some were enthusiastic about the plans, while others questioned whether another bridge and more lanes for traffic are necessary.

"Maybe adding lanes isn't the solution, because you're just going to add more traffic," said Nate Weyand-Geise of Covington. "We're going to end up maybe expanding this bridge in another 50 years. I'm a little disappointed in the scale and maybe the impact of this project."

Others have raised similar concerns and alternative visions for the corridor. Among the latest comes from a group called Bridge Forward, which claims to have designed a lower-impact alternative solution that frees up 30 acres of land swallowed by I-75.

ODOT and KYTC, meanwhile, stress that the current proposal they're moving forward with would take up less urban land than past designs. That's something Covington City Commissioner Ron Washington sees as a positive. Previous designs called for the demolition of a number of homes in Covington, something the current proposals scales back on.

"Comparing it to the last plan — the last plan took multiple, multiple houses," he said. "Now that's been really reduced to the single digits, which excites me because to be honest with you, housing is an issue in our city."

The input sessions — also done on the neighborhood level in Covington and Cincinnati — weren't the only opportunity to weigh in. Residents can go to the project's website through Jan. 5, 2023, to provide feedback and view renderings and all the technical details about interchanges, lane arrangements, aesthetic details, proposed noise barriers and other elements.

While the timeline for the project is contingent on funding, Hans says she believes the effort to revamp the corridor will break ground in 2024. The total cost of the effort isn't known yet. But past estimates put expanding the Brent Spence's capacity somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 billion, a price tag that will likely require significant federal funding.

Nick has reported from a nuclear waste facility in the deserts of New Mexico, the White House press pool, a canoe on the Mill Creek, and even his desk one time.