Ohio, Kentucky governors announce $2B plan for companion span, improvements to Brent Spence Bridge

Credit: Staff photo by Kareem Elgazzar

Credit: Staff photo by Kareem Elgazzar

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday a plan to pay for improvements and an expansion to the congested double-decker Brent Spence Bridge, which carries traffic from Interstates 71 and 75 between Cincinnati and Covington.

They are seeking $2 billion in federal grants to pay for a companion span to the bridge. DeWine said the funds are needed to make improvements to the current structure, provide more space for traffic and to make improvements to roads on both sides of the bridge.

“This is a happy day,” DeWine said as he opened the news conference. He also thanked Beshear for hosting.

“I don’t have to tell anyone in this room the importance of this bridge ... the need for an alternative, new bridge,” DeWine said. He also said it has “national significance.”

Fixes for the Brent Spence Bridge in the past have been a partisan debate, but the work needed was prioritized in the American Jobs Act, which included infrastructure, in 2021. The governors signed documents to position them to get the funds needed to start construction. DeWine called it “unprecedented.”

The documents are a memorandum of understanding to position the two states to move forward and get the money, he said.

“We are confident we can take great advantage of this great, great opportunity,” DeWine said.

Beshear said “we all deserve good, bright, optimistic days,” and the announcement of the possibilities of a newer Brent Spence Bridge provide that.

Kentucky Traffic Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray spoke and told Beshear and DeWine that it was “really inspiring” to be with them at the news conference Monday, a nod to the bipartisan work of DeWine, a Republican, and Beshear, a Democrat, putting aside politics to push through this effort.

Gray said the current bridge is “crying out for help.” The “design-build” project will have people working hand-in-hand on the project from the outset, he said.

“Together they will be looking for opportunities to reduce the cost and the footprint of the project, and to engage the communities,” Gray said. He called the team “bi-state.”

“Ohio and Kentucky are very, very aligned on this project,” DeWine said. He also said the more realistic estimate of the project is $2.8 billion, but that the states will ask for $2 billion and find other ways to fund the remainder if it is needed.

The pair made a call last week to federal transportation leaders to make sure they may apply in as narrow of a time frame as possible, Beshear said. They expect the application process to begin in the next few months and the procurement package should be available in the fall of 2023.

“I want to be able to break ground next year,” Beshear said. “I know it’s aggressive.”

“We’re in a hurry,” DeWine added.

The Brent Spence Bridge was designed to carry 85,000 vehicles per day, but it carries double that number, according to transportation departments in both states.

“The National Bridge Inventory lists the bridge as ‘functionally obsolete’ due to concerns with capacity,” states an overview by the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor project. That declaration, as made by the Federal Highway Administration, dates all the way back to the 1990s.

Brent Spence Bridge

- The bottom deck carries Ohio-bound traffic while the upper deck carries Kentucky-bound traffic.

- It is named for Kentucky’s longest-serving congressman at the time, Brent Spence.

- The bridge opened in 1964, a year after Spence retired from congress.

- Emergency shoulders on the bridge were removed in 1985 so that a fourth lane could be added.

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