The crash and fire that forced the closure of the Brent Spence Bridge last week did not damage the integrity of the span. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear says the conclusion comes after several days of physical inspection and laboratory analysis.
"The bridge as a structure is still safe and sound and sturdy," he says. "This damage could have been far worse. That is very good news."
The bridge was closed Nov. 11 after a collision between two semis ignited a fire. One of the trucks carried potassium hydroxide, which burned hot enough to damage the steel and concrete. No one was hurt in the crash.
The bridge will stay closed through Dec. 23. Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray says the damage was contained within a roughly 200-foot stretch. "We will be removing and replacing a section of the upper concrete deck. The damaged section of the lower deck does not require a full removal of any section," Gray says. "Instead we will mill out damaged concrete and fill it in with new material. We will also be replacing some steel beams."
Gray says those stringer beams support the upper deck. He says the bottom line is that the bridge is sturdy, and the work will return it to service. The price tag hasn't been determined yet, but Gray says $12 million in emergency federal funding awarded over the weekend will act as a down payment.
Governor Andy Beshear says drivers will have to adjust and be patient until the work is done.
"You're going to have to go through longer commutes. You're going to have to go through some of that frustration. Plan for it. Prepare for it. Change the hours that you travel. You can impact the amount of frustration that you experience or don't based on that," Beshear says.
KYTC officials say they will be monitoring traffic conditions and will be working with law enforcement on both sides of the river. Through traffic will be encouraged to use the 275 beltway and I-471. River traffic is not expected to be affected by the bridge work.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is reporting using the closure to its advantage. ODOT crews were repairing pavement, clearing drains, inspecting overhead signs and structures, and repairing lighting, according to District 8 Administrator Doug Gruver. Crews were also cleaning up litter and clearing vegetation.
In a statement, Gruver says "Our managers have been reviewing that area to look for any maintenance improvements … that can be completed while the bridge is closed. This allows us to get some needed work done without adding additional impacts to drivers and keeps our workers safe."