$12 Million In Emergency Funds Coming For Brent Spence Bridge Repairs

Nov 13, 2020

Updated Saturday Nov. 14 at 8:20 p.m.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says, in consultation with the U.S. Coast Guard, that the Ohio River beneath the Brent Spence Bridge is re-open Saturday night following Friday's closure. That was done as a precaution at the request of inspectors who wished to see the results of lab testing on the bridge's steel.

"The lab testing, together with testing of the metal's hardness that specialists conducted on site today, confirmed the components maintained their integrity," KYTC says in a statement Saturday night. "Therefore KYTC officials recommended to the Coast Guard that the river be reopened."

Inspectors Friday night became concerned, the agency says, about a "fire-damaged vertical steel component critical to support the bridge." Samples of the steel were sent to a metallurgical laboratory in Louisville where microscopic analysis was used "to ensure the metal was not compromised at a chemical level."

The Federal Highway Administration is making $12 million in "quick release" Emergency Relief funds available to begin the Brent Spence Bridge repair process. U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao made the announcement late Friday.

"These funds will help the safe and timely repair of the Brent Spence Bridge, which is such an important transportation link between Kentucky and Ohio and one of the busiest freight corridors in our nation," Chao says in a statement.

The bridge has been closed since early Wednesday morning following a fiery crash that burned at intense temperatures. Clean-up took more than a day. Inspectors and engineers are doing tests to determine the extent of the damage to the concrete and steel.

Traffic on the Ohio River was shutdown for a second time Friday night.

"Based on a visual inspection that took place this evening on the Brent Spence Bridge, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the U.S. Coast Guard have closed the Ohio River to water traffic," says Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray in a statement. "Advanced steel testing is being conducted and once experts review the testing results we will update the public."

A spokesman for Gray tells WVXU the action was taken on the basis of the inspectors findings making them want to act out of an abundance of caution. Inspectors want to see the findings of tests on steel samples taken from the bridge.

They need to know how the intense heat affected the composition of the steel, the spokesman says, adding they hope to have lab results "sometime this weekend."

Officials have said they expect the bridge to remain closed for weeks, if not longer.

Meanwhile, the Roebling Bridge, which was closed to traffic as well because of vehicles disregarding posted weight limits, has reopened.