COVINGTON, Ky. — Traffic can once again cross the Brent Spence Bridge six weeks after a fiery crash left it in disrepair, creating backups on both sides of the river. All lanes reopened and funneled vehicles through one of America's busiest thoroughfares by late Tuesday afternoon.
But the bridge’s closure didn’t just impact traffic. On Tuesday, employees at businesses in Covington breathed a sigh of relief after the closure caused a major slowdown in sales.
“It was a double whammy for us,” said Lena Merritt, who works at Riverfront Pizza and Sports Bar.
In a pandemic year that has tested so many small shops and restaurants, she said Riverfront Pizza was served another blow when the Brent Spence shut down.
“It was hectic. It was very uncertain. Just up in the air -- didn't know what was going to happen,” she said.
During that time, Merritt said, delivery times shot up, and carryout business at the West Third Street eatery was cut in half.
“Every single day, they would complain about their traffic,” she said.
While each of the 41 days the bridge was closed presented a challenge for restaurants and shops, the final repairs were completed a day ahead of schedule and well under the $12 million allocated for the project. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray reported the actual cost may be as little as half of that amount, adding that the public can trust crews delivered without cutting corners.
“We are returning to the public a bridge that is strong and sturdy and safe and ready to serve our needs for many more years to come,” he said.
We are grateful to everyone who supported this project -- either by working directly on the bridge or behind the scenes, or by rerouting their daily travels to detour around the bridge.— KYTC District 6 (@KYTCDistrict6) December 23, 2020
Here's some footage from our #OpeningDay: pic.twitter.com/HY8S1MObWt
“This is ahead of schedule and under budget, and that’s what we like to hear," said Gov. Andy Beshear on Tuesday. "And this is an incredibly important bridge on a main artery for commerce throughout the United States, and a heavily trafficked bridge for our citizens in Kentucky as well as Ohio residents. So we’re very excited about this.”
That stability is welcome news on what’s been a bumpy road for river city businesses.
“It's been… a very strange year for everybody,” Merritt said.
Just hours after the bridge reopened, Merritt told WCPO 9 that Riverfront Pizza is already seeing an uptick in sales once again.