COVINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray estimated Thursday afternoon that it could take weeks, "maybe more than a month," for crews to complete repairs to the Brent Spence Bridge.
"Given the circumstances, this could have been much worse," Gray said.
With inspectors assessing the damage to the Brent Spence Bridge caused by a fiery crash, Gov. Andy Beshear scheduled a news conference to update the public on the bridge's status.
Gray said the inspection process will take several days in order to determine the extent of the necessary repairs.
Beshear and Gray both emphasized patience as engineers and repair crews determine exactly how long it will take for the major corridor to reopen. The bridge sustained damage after an intense fire erupted from two semitrailers that collided on the bridge's northbound lower deck early Wednesday morning.
Gray and his team were on-site in Covington at the time of Thursday afternoon's update.
Earlier Thursday, Kenton County Judge Executive Kris Knochelmann declared a state of emergency in the county in an effort to coordinate the various agencies that will be involved in handling the various forms of disruption the bridge's closure is expected to cause.
Late Wednesday, law enforcement officials closed the nearby John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, citing multiple semitrailer drivers ignoring the historic span's 11-ton weight limit. Gray said Thursday it will take coordination between the Covington and Cincinnati police departments to enforce the weight limit before KYTC will consider reopening the Roebling.
The Brent Spence Bridge carried between 150,000 and 200,000 vehicles per day before its forced closure, according to estimates from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments. That's more than twice the capacity it was designed to carry. A major truck freight corridor, it was estimated to carry roughly 3% of the gross domestic product each year.
For nearly a decade, advocates in the region have been lobbying Frankfort and Washington, D.C. to build a supplemental bridge to accommodate the ballooning traffic numbers. According to Build Our New Bridge Now, an organization advocating for a new bridge, the estimated cost to expand the Brent Spence traffic corridor is approaching $3 billion, and the cost increases each day.
Beshear said commercial vessel travel on the Ohio River in the downtown Cincinnati vicinity had reopened by Thursday afternoon.