"The bottom line is we will continue to work hard to get this vital transportation link reopen two weeks from today." That's the message Wednesday from Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray on the Brent Spence I-71/75 bridge.
New steel beams and metal decking have been installed on the upper level of the bridge and crews are scheduled to begin pouring concrete for the road surface Thursday. Kokosing Construction has heaters and a special curing agent that can be used to ensure the concrete hardens properly if the weather turns colder. For now, Gray says the weather is cooperating.
Crews are slated to mill the top level of the lower deck road surface next week and pour a new concrete surface. Concrete pouring began Wednesday on new barrier walls on the lower level.
Gray says the construction remains on schedule for a Dec. 23 reopening.
"We are planning now for the reopening of the bridge and the restoration of normal traffic," Gray says. "There's a lot of work to be done, of course, in restoring our traffic patterns. It has to be carefully and thoroughly and thoughtfully coordinated."
He adds the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is working with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and outside contractors on a traffic management plan for reopening the bridge.
A final price tag isn't set, though Gray says the $12 million in federal emergency funds "gets us to where the substantial portion of the project is complete." Kokosing's contract for construction repairs is for $3,127,528. Engineering, inspections and traffic management are among some of the additional costs.
The investigation into what caused the two-semi crash leading to the inferno that shut the bridge continues. The Brent Spence has been shut down since the Nov. 11 incident.
When asked about plans to deal with the increasing number of wrecks on the bridge in the past few years, Gray pointed to plans for a second companion bridge - commonly referred to as a replacement, though the Brent Spence Bridge itself would remain in use - as "arguably the best solution." However, despite years of talks about building a second bridge, there remains no financial plan in place to make it happen.
KYTC District 6 Chief Engineer Bob Yeager says another measure is a plan to create a "Texas turnaround" on the northbound Kentucky side, extending the current four lanes on the bridge to the Pike St. entrance and creating more room for people to maneuver into the correct lanes they'll need when traffic splits at the Ohio side bridge terminus, sending drivers to either I-71, I-75 or local exits.
You can see a video of the work in progress below.
We may be biased but this could be the coolest video you see all day! Watch the incredible progress made in under 2 weeks as crews work hard to restore a safe and sound Brent Spence Bridge before the holidays. More progress to come! pic.twitter.com/r9eDfn6Psj
— KYTC District 6 (@KYTCDistrict6) December 9, 2020