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A fiery crash closed the Brent Spence Bridge. Here's what needs to be fixed

Work began less than a week after bridge closed
Posted at 5:15 PM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 20:18:34-05

COVINGTON, Ky. — Less than a week after two semitrailers collided and ignited an intense fire on the Brent Spence Bridge, repair crews began arriving in Covington Tuesday to begin work that officials estimate should take more than a month to complete.

According to Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray, the crash did not compromise the overall integrity of the bridge's structure, but the intensity of the fire did damage to about 200 feet of concrete on the upper deck and the beams that support that segment.

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The primary bridge components slated for repair and replacement are a portion of the upper concrete deck and the beams that support it.

Other repairs include replacing segments of the concrete guardrails on the lower deck, repairing a portion of the drainage system and replacing some lighting fixtures.

Gray said he estimates repairs should be complete by Dec. 23.

"I think everyone is reminded as this bridge is shut down how important the bridge is," said Kristin Baldwin, vice president of public affairs and communications with the Northern Kentucky Chamber.

She echoed others throughout the region, saying the "Brent Spence problem" goes beyond the crash and subsequent abrupt closure.

"It's always been a capacity issue," Baldwin said.

According to Ohio Department of Transportation traffic data, more than 152,000 vehicles crossed the Brent Spence Bridge in 2019. That's nearly double the capacity engineers designed it to carry when it opened nearly 57 years ago.

"That's been a conversation that’s been on the table for numerous years," Baldwin said. Over the last decade, transportation officials from both Ohio and Kentucky have developed multiple proposals to either replace or supplement the Brent Spence Bridge with a new bridge.

Given recent events, Baldwin expects those discussions to accelerate.

"So the public will be seeing a lot more education efforts about the history of the bridge and what are those long-term solutions and options moving forward," she said.