COVINGTON, Ky. — After a six-week closure, the Brent Spence Bridge reopened Tuesday afternoon, a day earlier than Kentucky transportation officials predicted last month.
"Vehicles, cars and trucks will be moving across this bridge again before the day is over," KYTC secretary Jim Gray said during a news briefing Tuesday morning. "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."
At 1 p.m., KYTC tweeted that it would be "about an hour" before law enforcement would begin the phased reopening of the eight-mile stretch of Interstate 71/75 leading north toward the bridge.
Striping is finished on both decks. Paint is drying. ✨☀️ In about an hour, law enforcement will lead traffic from I-275 northbound on I-71/75 across the bridge so that traffic can build gradually as lanes and access ramps are reopened. It's like our very own #OpeningDayParade. pic.twitter.com/Ou2o9Qlh7w— KYTC (@KYTC) December 22, 2020
"Road crews are getting everything in place on the bridge and the streets that feed onto it as we prepare to restore the connection between Covington and Cincinnati," Kentucky governor Andy Beshear said. "The reopening of the Brent Spence Bridge is a welcome Christmas gift to everyone this season."
Gray said construction crews would be painting the stripes for traffic lanes around noon. Once the lanes were painted, crews would then start to reopen the bridge in phases, but Gray said the bridge could be open between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.
"This is not going to be a NASCAR mad dash," KYTC chief district engineer Bob Yeager said. "We had over eight miles of barricades and barrels on Interstate 71/75. Those all have to be removed."
Yeager said crews removed five miles of barricades between the bridge and Interstate 275 early Tuesday morning. There were still at least three miles of barricades left to cleanup south of Interstate 275 though.
On Monday afternoon, the final inspections on the bridge were completed, and inspectors confirmed that the bridge was safe for travel and for final repair work to begin.
The bridge closed after a fiery semitrailer crash on Nov. 11 damaged the lower and upper deck of the bridge. Since then, Kenton County Judge Executive Kris Knochelmann declared a state of emergency in order to repair the bridge quickly.