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State inspectors start work on Brent Spence Bridge; Beshear, Gray make closed bridge a priority

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) Secretary Jim Gray spent Thursday at the Brent Spence Bridge, signaling the importance of reopening the bridge when it is “fully safe to do so.” He also spent time with community leaders to explain the plans and the process.

The bridge is a main interstate — north and south for all kinds of traffic — and an important artery for local traffic from Northern Kentucky into and out of Cincinnati. Roads in Northern Kentucky had drivers nearly at a standstill all day long on Thursday.

Bridge inspectors getting to work. (Photos by KYTC)

The fire-damaged bridge was closed to traffic in the wake of a crash early Wednesday morning involving two commercial motor vehicles that sparked an intense fire. Crews worked through the night Wednesday into Thursday to clear the bridge of debris and allow access to a corps of about 20 inspectors and engineers.

“Everyone recognizes the importance of the Brent Spence Bridge and the entire I-71 and I-75 corridor. We are committed – fully committed – to reopening this bridge as quickly as we can, provided it is fully safe for everyone that would cross it,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “I want to emphasize our need for patience and also planning for your personal and business disruption that’s going to be occurring for at least the next several weeks. We need a little patience as well until we can give you an official timeline.”

“We are taking vigorous steps with the most talented engineers in order to assess the damage and get the bridge reopened to traffic,” Gray said. “But we know under fully the best case, we have repairs that will take weeks to execute. So, it is important that our businesses, our commercial traffic and residents prepare for this.”

Beshear and Gray gave the following updates Thursday afternoon:

• The recovery project is moving on multiple tracks at once: While inspectors examine the damage and collect samples for materials testing, engineers are designing specific repairs in real-time.

• While inspections are underway, KYTC is securing the vendors, supplies and contractors that will be needed regardless of the design specifics of the repair project.

• The Ohio River, which the U.S. Coast Guard closed to commercial and recreational boat traffic for safety reasons, has been reopened.

• KYTC is working with officials on both the Ohio and Kentucky sides of the river to reopen the historic Roebling Bridge, upriver from the Brent Spence, to passenger traffic. Covington police closed the bridge to motor vehicles Wednesday night after large commercial trucks were seen going onto the bridge in defiance of its 11-ton weight limit and posted warning signs. The pedestrian walkway is open to foot traffic.

Further updates can be found at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s webpage.

Transportation Cabinet and Staff report

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