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Brent Spence Bridge ranked second-worst traffic bottleneck in U.S.

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Posted at 12:21 PM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 14:48:42-05

CINCINNATI — Most Tri-State commuters agree: The Brent Spence Bridge is just the worst. Turns out, there's data to prove it.

In fairness, the Brent Spence Bridge is actually only the second-worst in the U.S. when it comes to traffic choke points, according to this year's "Top 100 Truck Bottlenecks" list, released every year by the American Transportation Research Institute.

The rankings are based primarily on how quickly vehicles can move through the corridor during both rush and non-rush hours and how much of that traffic carries freight, along with a handful of other criteria. ATRI collects speed data from semitrailers carrying goods through the busy corridors to inform the rankings.

Mark Policinski, CEO of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments, said the report "comes as no shock" and described the bridge as a "fatal flaw in our regional infrastructure."

"In a few short years, we've seen the bridge significantly worsen in terms of safely and efficiently transporting freight and families," he said in a news release Thursday, referring to the bridge's rise from No. 5 rank last year to No. 2 this year.

The Brent Spence sits at the confluence of Interstates 71 and 75, both major freight corridors. Recent OKI estimates measure the bridge carries roughly 3% of the nation's gross domestic product every year, and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says more than 160,000 vehicles, on average, cross the bridge each day.

The only bottleneck worse than the Brent Spence: the Interstate 95 corridor in Fort Lee, N.J., which leads across the George Washington Bridge into New York.

Policinski said its perennial top-10 bottleneck ranking demonstrates the need to build a second, supplemental bridge alongside the Brent Spence.

"There is no debate that the situation calls for a new bridge," he said in Thursday's release.

Debate or not, the hurdles to building another bridge are significant: Namely, the estimated cost to build a new bridge topped $3 billion in 2020, a figure that continues to grow with each passing month with no clear way to pay for it.

Late last year, a crash involving two semitrailers -- one carrying hazardous material residue -- was serious enough to close the bridge entirely in both directions for a period of six weeks, sending major traffic disruptions rippling across Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.