Brent Spence Bridge reopens after a six-week closure

December 23, 2020

Tyson Fisher

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After a crash involving two trucks shut down the Brent Spence Bridge in November, the bridge is now reopened.

On Tuesday, Dec. 22, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray announced the reopening of the Brent Spence Bridge. The reopening is actually one day ahead of schedule.

“We are delivering today on a promise, a promise to return to the public a fully repaired, steel-strong and sturdy Brent Spence Bridge,” Gray said during a news conference on Tuesday. “Vehicles, cars and trucks will be moving across this bridge again before the day is over.”

After six weeks of emergency repairs, travel lanes and access ramps leading to the bridge gradually reopened Tuesday afternoon. Reopening began as soon as lane striping was complete.

“We are pleased to reopen the Brent Spence Bridge ahead of schedule and return one of the nation’s busiest and most important economic travel corridors to public use,” Beshear said in a statement. “I commend the dedicated employees of the Transportation Cabinet for working with deliberate speed and adhering to strict safety guidelines in a time of unprecedented uncertainty in our great state.”

In addition to being ahead of schedule, Gray also expects the repairs to come under budget. The U.S. Department of Transportation issued emergency repair funds in the amount of $12 million. During a news conference, Gray said the final cost could be as much as half that amount. The state will be exploring options regarding any potential insurance claims on the bridge as well.

Brent Spence Bridge hazmat sign map
More hazmat signs will be installed amid concerns raised in the wake of the Nov. 11 crash that caused the Brent Spence Bridge closure.

The bridge was shut down on Nov. 11 after a crash involving two trucks caused a fire.

According to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the crash at 2:45 a.m. after a truck jackknifed while traveling northbound on the Brent Spence Bridge.

A truck hauling potassium hydroxide crashed into the jackknifed truck. Hundreds of gallons of spilled diesel  sparked a fire on the bridge. No one was killed in the crash.

During Tuesday’s news conference, Gray addressed concerns about the potassium hydroxide being hauled by one of the trucks involved in the crash. Hazardous materials are not allowed on the bridge. However, the small amount of potassium hydroxide that was being hauled was not enough to qualify as hazardous material cargo, Gray explained. The chemical compound likely had no effect on the damage to the bridge as it is neither flammable nor combustible.

Regardless, many have raised suspicions of the efficacy of the current hazmat restrictions on the Brent Spence Bridge and Interstate 71/75 in the wake of the Nov. 11 crash. Consequently, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will be installing new signage at the beginning of 2021. New signs will be put in place on both the Kentucky and Ohio side of the interstates.

According to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the Brent Spence Bridge was designed to carry 80,000 to 100,000 vehicles per day over the Ohio River. Today, the bridge carries about twice as many vehicles. The shutdown of the bridge has reenergized talks about a companion bridge to the west of the existing bridge.  LL

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Tyson Fisher

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.