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Ohio senators call for 'long-term solution' to Brent Spence Bridge problem

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Posted at 4:03 PM, Nov 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-16 19:47:17-05

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Rob Portman, a Republican, and Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, have both issued statements calling on the federal government to intervene toward a "long-term solution" to the ongoing Brent Spence Bridge problem.

In a Nov. 13 letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Federal Highway Administration chief Nicole Nason, Portman wrote: "Looking forward to the needs of the Greater Cincinnati region, the Brent Spence Bridge has been functionally obsolete for over 35 years ... I ask that you stay engaged with me on identifying a sustainable path forward. While the immediate need is restoration of the operations after this horrific accident, we are in need of a long-term solution for the interconnectivity of this region."

In a statement to WCPO Monday, Brown echoed his colleague and characterized a replacement or supplemental bridge as an unfulfilled promise.

"President Trump promised a $1 trillion infrastructure bill to help Ohio communities but never delivered. Now, I urge my Republican colleagues in the Senate to work with Democrats and the incoming Biden administration to get this done," he said. "The Senate’s transportation bill that stalled this year included more than $3 billion for bridge repairs that I proposed with Sen. Portman. We need to secure the funds to finally build a new, modern Brent Spence."

The current plan to expand the Brent Spence Corridor includes constructing a new, supplemental bridge just down-river from the existing bridge. The cost to do so is estimated at roughly $3 billion, and that total increases each year.

The major commuter and trade corridor shut down last week after a fiery crash involving two semitrailers compromised the integrity and safety of the bridge. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, which owns and maintains the majority of the bridge, scrambled to revise traffic flows throughout the Northern Kentucky region in the aftermath of the closure.

On Friday, Chao announced $12 million in emergency relief funds for KYTC's repair and restoration efforts, which KYTC Sec. Jim Gray said could take weeks once inspectors have evaluated the extent of the damage.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Gray announced Monday that they expect the bridge to reopen to traffic by Dec. 23.

During a news briefing, Beshear and Gray both acknowledged a companion bridge is necessary, but Beshear added, "Does this accident further highlight the need for a resolution? Yes, but it has to be one that's supported by local communities, as well."

When the Brent Spence Bridge opened nearly 57 years ago, engineers designed the bridge to carry roughly 80,000 vehicles per day. In recent years, until Wednesday's crash, it carried at least double that, with some experts estimating up to 200,000 vehicles used the bridge each day.

Officials estimate that, when open to vehicle traffic, the Brent Spence Bridge carries roughly 3% of the national gross domestic product.