Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and Ohio Governor John Kasich have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to study financing plans for replacing the Brent Spence Bridge. The MOU signing represents an important step in the plan for Ohio and Kentucky to jointly construct a new river crossing that will improve safety and traffic flow over the Ohio River by supplementing the existing Brent Spence Bridge between the two states. The project represents one of the more significant public infrastructure studies taken up in recent months as states look for ways to deal with the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
The 49-year-old Brent Spence Bridge, which President Obama visited last year, currently carries traffic from local roads and I-71 and I-75, two of the nation’s heaviest truck routes. The new river crossing will carry more than 60 percent of the bridge’s current traffic, significantly reducing traffic congestion and increasing capacity at a chokepoint along one of North America’s busiest north-south freight corridors. The project follows a similar congestion relief project underway between Michigan and Canada which have signed an MOU to fund a second bridge connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. That bridge will help to reduce the heavily clogged Ambassador Bridge route which carries billions of dollars in trade traffic between the two countries.
Though structurally sound, the Brent Spence is classified as “functionally obsolete” because of its narrow lanes, absence of emergency shoulders and limited visibility on its lower deck. While the exact structure type of the additional bridge is still to be determined, the selected roadway alternative for the long-awaited bridge is a two-deck span that would carry all of Interstate 75, plus southbound lanes of I-71 and three southbound lanes of local traffic. Under the selected alternative design, the Brent Spence would undergo renovation and remain in service to carry two northbound lanes of I-71 on its upper deck and three lanes of northbound local traffic on its lower deck. Governor Kasich has said that the new bridge will be paid for by collecting tolls.
Kentucky and Ohio already have made significant strides toward realization of a new bridge. Preliminary design work has been completed, as has a federally required environmental assessment that resulted in a “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI) by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in August 2012. The states have come together to create a bilateral management team to oversee the project and both states will be equally responsible for the costs.
Work performed in Ohio under the agreement will be governed by the laws of Ohio. Work performed in Kentucky will be governed by the laws of the Commonwealth. Once underway, the project will include construction of new approaches, reconfigured traffic signals and other roadway improvements on both sides of the Ohio River to accommodate the modified traffic flow.
“The businesses and citizens that use the bridge every day need relief from gridlock today – not 30 years from now,” said Gov. Kasich. “I look forward to working closely with Gov. Beshear to make a real change and deliver the Brent Spence Bridge quickly.”