Kentucky Transportation Cabinet: To ease Brent Spence traffic, we need another bridge

Plan calls for another double-deck bridge

After exploring other options, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet released study findings Tuesday "confirming the need for a second bridge to carry Interstate 71/75 traffic across the Ohio River."

A yearlong study "confirms the need for construction of a new bridge across the Ohio River to improve safety and travel on Interstate 71 and Interstate 75 between Ohio and Kentucky," a news release from the KYTC said.

The news release cited the findings of the Brent Spence Strategic Corridor Study, which was led by the consulting firm Stantec.

The best solution to "ease congestion and improve travel" is to build a second bridge to exist alongside the Brent Spence Bridge, the study found.

The proposed second bridge would be a double-deck, six lane bridge. The design of the bridge would force drivers "to make route decisions ... before crossing the bridge, therefore reducing the need to change lanes on the bridge and improving safety."

The bridge would cost an estimated $2.6 billion, according to the news release, and could open by 2024.

“This study confirms what many already suspected – a new bridge is needed, as well as improvements to Interstate 71/75 to address the explosive economic growth along this important transportation corridor," Governor Matt Bevin said in the news release. "It is also imperative that we stay focused on the economic development potential of a bypass. To that end, I am requesting that a planning study for the Kentucky portion of an eastern bypass be included in the next highway plan.”

The study also evaluated the Cincinnati Eastern Bypass concept, which would connect Interstate 71/75 in Walton to the eastern side of Interstate 275 in an effort to divert traffic traveling over the river. That plan was "recommended for further study" but would not effectively solve the problems affecting the Brent Spence Bridge, the news release said.

The Eastern Bypass plan would only decrease traffic by less than 10 percent, the study said, and it would not ease congestion between Kyle's Lane and the Ohio River. Cost for the Eastern Bypass could also cost close to $5.3 billion -- almost $3 billion more than the estimated cost of a new bridge.

The study also concluded that "the existing Brent Spence Bridge is structurally sound and will remain in service to support safe and effective travel across the Ohio River." The Brent Spence Bridge was designed to carry 80,000 vehicles per day; it currently carries more than twice that, the news release said.

RELATED: Where does the Brent Spence Bridge rank among Kentucky's road improvement needs?

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In the past, the KYTC has called the Brent Spence Bridge "functionally obsolete," which actually means a roadway is unable to accommodate the traffic it carries.

In May, The Hill ranked the Brent Spence Bridge the No. 1 infrastructure emergency in the country. The political news organization said the bridge threatens "the economy and public safety." 

Transportation reporter Pat LaFleur contributed to this report.

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