U.S. Dept. of Transportation Secretary and Kentucky resident Elaine L. Chao announced Friday as much as $12 million in available federal funding to facilitate emergency repairs for the damaged Brent Spence Bridge.
In a news release, Chao said, "These funds will help the safe and timely repair of the Brent Spence Bridge, which is such an important transportation link between Kentucky and Ohio and one of the busiest freight corridors in our nation."
Before a fiery, two-semitrailer crash on the bridge's northbound lower deck early Wednesday morning, some estimates calculated up to 200,000 vehicles crossed the bridge every day. The bridge carries Interstates 71 and 75 across the Ohio River from Covington, Kentucky, to Cincinnati.
As of Friday, inspectors were still assessing the extent of the damage caused by the crash, in which a semitractor-trailer hauling potassium hydroxide collided with another semitrailer that had jackknifed on the bridge just seconds earlier. The wreckage eventually erupted into a fireball that burned intensely for hours, putting into question the integrity of the bridge.
The bridge's abrupt closure caused major traffic disruptions across Northern Kentucky and in parts of Cincinnati and had transportation and law enforcement officials scrambling in the hours and days following the crash.
Chao's state-level counterpart, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray, said Thursday the inspection would take days and the repairs could take weeks if not months to complete.
For roughly a decade, Northern Kentucky advocacy groups have been lobbying Frankfort and Washington either to replace or to build a supplemental bridge for the aging Brent Spence corridor, which initially was designed to carry less than half the traffic it carries today. By some estimates, that supplemental bridge and the associated highway expansions leading up to the river are approaching $3 billion in costs.
State officials have not indicated what it will cost to repair and reopen the Brent Spence Bridge.