A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Brent Spence, Suspension Bridge closed, traffic diverted; Knockelmann declares State of Emergency

Local traffic is at best a “nightmare” as the local drivers as well as heavy pass-through traffic has been re-routed after a dramatic two-truck collision early morning on Wednesday shut down the I-75 Brent Spence Bridge.

The fiery crash was fueled by 400 gallons of diesel fuel and threatened by a load of potassium hydroxide carried by one of the trucks. The fire burned at temperatures reaching 1500 degrees.

While the temperature of the bridge is “no longer an obstacle,” Gov. Beshear said that the debris is impeding the start of inspections.

The City of Covington has announced the closing of the Suspension Bridge because of weight concerns with the increase of traffic there.

Transportation Cabinet photo

“Our Transportation Cabinet is utilizing unmanned aerial systems equipment to aid in the inspection of the structure so we can do that safely, determine the amount of the damage and start to get to work on repairs,” he said.

On Thursday, Kenton County Judge-Executive Kris Knochelmann issued a State of Emergency declaration that all agencies of Kenton County would cooperate fully with Kenton County Office of Homeland Security Emergency Management and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

He noted that “the duration of this disruption” would continue into the foreseeable future until the damaged portion of the Brent Spence Bridge is replaced or repaired. He also said that emergency personnel were ordered off the bridge until structural integrity could be assured.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will post updates about the bridge here. Follow District 6 on Facebook here.

There are no known serious injuries or deaths resulting from the crash or fire, according to reports from the scene.

The Ohio River remains closed to traffic, by order of the Coast Guard. They will determine when the river will reopen. A response team from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet was on site as some potassium hydroxide entered the river. The chemical is not considered an environmental concern at this time. The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet has been in communication with local water companies about the fire suppressant foam that entered the river. A boom was placed on the surface of the water to contain any materials that may fall in the river during cleanup efforts.

Detours in Place

• I-71/71 northbound traffic from Kentucky is being detoured at I-275 EB and WB to I-471 NB.

• I-71/75 Southbound traffic is being detoured to I-471 SB.

• Detour onto I-471, I-71, I-74 and I-275 and U.S. 50 but expect heavier-than-normal traffic.

• Local traffic can use I-471 (Daniel Carter Beard Bridge) southbound into Northern Kentucky and 4th St. Veterans Bridge (KY 8), the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge (U.S. 25), the John Roebling Bridge (KY 17) and the Taylor Southgate Bridge (U.S. 27)

Transportation Cabinet photo

“This is a very important bridge, not just for the region but for the nation, and we are fully committed to getting it back into service. But the safety of the public and of our and Ohio’s employees is absolutely critical,” said Beshear. “In the next hours, maybe a little longer, we need your patience. That patience is necessary to make sure we don’t send anybody to do the inspection or to clean up the debris until we know they will be OK.”

Following a media briefing, Beshear signed a regional state of emergency declaration in order to adequately respond to the emergency situation. The Governor said, if needed, he would request federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation and has a call arranged with Secretary Elaine Chao this afternoon.

“This has been a very quick mobilization of resources, and we are going to do everything possible to restore the traffic and supply chain that this represents in this area,” Gray said.

The information Beshear and Gray have Wednesday is:

• At approximately 2:45 a.m. EST, a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) truck jackknifed while driving northbound (lower deck) on the Brent Spence Bridge. Officials do not know why the truck jackknifed.

• After the CMV truck jackknifed, a second truck carrying potassium hydroxide crashed into it.

• The collision caused a fire on the bridge. Emergency management personnel said 400 gallons of diesel fuel was the main cause of the fire. An unknown amount of diesel fuel spilled and burned in the fire.

• The fire has been contained.

• Both northbound and southbound I-75 lanes have been closed to allow clean-up efforts and engineers to inspect the bridge.

• The Brent Spence was built in 1963 is a sound bridge. The Brent Spence expansion project was to build an additional bridge, not a replacement bridge.

• The bridge cannot be examined for damage until it cools down enough to be safe for inspectors. The fire burned at up to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

• Traffic will be detoured to I-275 and I-471.

• By agreement between Kentucky and Ohio, KYTC is the maintenance lead on the Brent Spence Bridge. The inspection and solution process following this incident will be a joint effort between both states and the Federal Highway Administration.

• Inspectors will determine the extent of damage and any structural damage. Initially, officials know that there is visible damage to the bridge and its concrete decking.

• The bridge will remain closed until its safety can be guaranteed. KYTC’s top priority, as always, is protecting Kentuckians and all visitors to the Commonwealth.

• At best, the bridge will be closed for several days, but travelers should be prepared for the possibility of weeks. Reopening estimate at this time is purely speculative.

• Employers who are able should allow their employees who can to work from home.

• The next scheduled work on the Brent Spence Bridge is a painting job, which was scheduled to be let to contract next month. No construction work was included in the current State Highway Plan.

• The Transportation Cabinet and Beshear’s office will continue to provide updates and information.

Governor’s Office and staff reports

Related Posts

Leave a Comment