COVINGTON, Ky. — If you enjoy the ambient hum of rubber over grated metal when driving across the John A. Roebling Bridge, make sure to enjoy it while you can. The bridge is about to go quiet.
The suspension bridge connecting The Banks in Cincinnati and Covington's Licking Riverside District will close next month and not reopen to vehicles again until November, as part of a months-long restoration project, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet announced Thursday.
Beginning Monday, the bridge will reduce to one lane of traffic for two weeks, when, on Feb. 15, it will close to vehicles altogether. Access to one of the bridge's two pedestrian walkways will remain open, said Bob Yeager, KYTC's local chief engineer.
"We know what a vital connection this is," Yeager said in a news release.
While open to a single lane, special signals will direct traffic while restoration crews set up their equipment before the full shutdown. During these first two weeks, drivers should expect traffic backups on the bridge as two-way traffic is condensed to one lane.
The closure is part of a long-planned, $4.7 million effort to restore segments of sandstone on the 154-year-old bridge's two towers, along with other repair work.
The bridge entered the National Historic Landmark registry in the 1970s, and continues to provide one of two primary access points to the historic neighborhood that sits at the confluence of the Ohio and Licking rivers.
Its other entry point is the nearby Veterans Memorial/Fourth Street Bridge connecting to Newport and its up-and-coming entertainment district, where traffic is expected to swell with the opening of a new music venue this year. In 2019, that bridge, itself more than a half-century old, saw an influx in traffic congestion with Covington-bound motorists diverted from the Roebling.
The Clay Wade Bailey Bridge between Mainstrasse Village in Covington and Third Street across the river provides another alternative for commuters trying to move between the two cities, but drivers using that alternative during the Roebling's prolonged closure should expect rush-hour backups there, as well.
In spring 2019, the bridge closed for four months while emergency repair work took place, caused by the same issue this long-term project was meant to address. A year earlier, the bridge closed for a similar period of time after a hit-and-run driver slammed into one of its cable girders.
With both extended closures, business owners in the neighborhood said they saw significant declines in customer traffic while the bridge was closed to vehicles.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that both pedestrian walkways will remain open during the bridge's closure. It has been updated to reflect that only one of the two pedestrian walkways will remain open. WCPO regrets the error.