Three weeks into the six-week repair project, new steel beams are in place on the Brent Spence I-71/75 bridge and crews are preparing to pour a new section of road on the upper deck.
The damaged sections of the upper deck were removed and crews from Kokosing Construction are preparing large "pans" filled with reinforcing bars, or rebar, to hold the new concrete. Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray reports the recent cold weather shouldn't affect the concrete curing process, and Kokosing has heaters, if needed, to ensure the concrete sets properly.
Once the upper deck repairs are finished, Gray says crews will shift to repairing the road surface and barrier walls on the lower deck. That's expected to begin next week.
"The damage by the fire was not as great at all on the lower deck," Gray points out, so only surface repairs are needed to the concrete there.
The top layer of the concrete roadway will be milled off - scrapping away the damaged surface - and a new surface layer of concrete will be laid. New barrier walls will also be installed.
Gray reiterates the bridge's structural integrity is solid.
"The main support members of the structure were tested, and they were tested vigorously by our inspectors," Gray says. "We got two opinions from laboratories on the structural integrity of the steel members."
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is taking advantage of the bridge closure to do some other unrelated maintenance and repair work, too.
The Brent Spence Bridge connecting Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky has been closed since Nov. 11 after a two-semi wreck created a fiery inferno, damaging the bridge. The fire burned at up to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit because one of the trucks was carrying potassium hydroxide. More commonly known as lye, it's used in making soaps and other products.
During an update Dec. 2, Gray continued to face questions related to hazardous materials on the bridge.
"Let me say again that the truck that was involved in the crash on the bridge was not carrying enough potassium hydroxide for it to be considered hazardous material. ... That is to say it was lawfully, by regulation, lawfully on the bridge."
It's the responsibility of every truck driver to know their route and plan ahead for conditions/restrictions/prohibitions of their route, Gray says, adding, however, that KYTC is using this as an opportunity to review and examine its protocols.
The bridge's estimated reopening date is Dec. 23.
Meanwhile, drivers are encouraged to take alternate routes - I-275 and I-471 - around the city, and to plan travel for non-peak hours.