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State Study Confirms Need for New Bridge in Covington to Cincinnati

There is a need for a second span between Covington and Cincinnati along I-71/75.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet released the results of a year-long study that it said confirmed the need for construction of a new bridge to improve safety and travel. The proposed bridge would be adjacent to the Brent Spence Bridge which currently carries nearly twice the number of cars that it was constructed to hold.

KYTC, under the direction of Governor Matt Bevin, commissioned the Brent Spence Strategic Corridor Study to analyze multiple options to relieve congestion and improve cross-river mobility in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region. The study provides a data-driven, objective, and transparent perspective on the most effective means of addressing transportation issues in the Brent Spence Corridor, a news release said.

Bevin is also calling for further study of a proposed east-west bypass that would go through the southern ends of Northern Kentucky's three northern-most counties.

“This study confirms what many already suspected – a new bridge is needed, as well as improvements to I-71/75 to address the explosive economic growth along this important transportation corridor," Bevin said. "It is also imperative that we stay focused on the economic development potential of a bypass. To that end, I am requesting that a planning study for the Kentucky portion of an eastern bypass be included in the next highway plan.”


Statement from Ohio Kentucky Indiana (OKI) Regional Council of Governments CEO Mark Policinski:

"On behalf of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments, thank you to Governor Bevin and Secretary Thomas for their resolute leadership on the Brent Spence Bridge Strategic Corridor Study. Relying on facts and straightforward data, Governor Bevin promised a fresh look at the Brent Spence corridor with thorough evaluation of alternatives. He has delivered on his promise.

It is monumental to have confirmation on the necessity of a new bridge on the Brent Spence corridor, based on solid evidence and advanced traffic demand modeling. Importantly, the study also recommends the reconstruction of the I-275 interchange at I-71/75, which will relieve congestion along the entire corridor and spur economic development.  

However, the hardest part of this project lies ahead. The Commonwealth and the State, along with their respective legislatures, must now come together to forge a financing plan. OKI stands ready to support this crucial work.

Thanks to Governor Bevin and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, today is a meaningful step forward for our region."


The Brent Spence Strategic Corridor Study team was led by Stantec with support from AECOM and other consulting firms. Stantec and AECOM are global engineering firms with expertise in delivering complex infrastructure project analyses.

The news release did not address funding options. Proposed tolling has been widely opposed by local governments on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River.


Statement from the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce:

"The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce concurs with Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s strategic study released today confirming the Brent Spence Bridge Replacement/Rehabilitation Project and Corridor is needed.

For well over 15 years, the NKY Chamber has advocated for the need for this regionally significant economic development project in order for our economy to prosper.

We fully support Governor Bevin's efforts to improve Kentucky's infrastructure, and applaud his pro-business approach toward our key regional projects.

The NKY Consensus Committee, made up of over 70 business and civic leaders from around the region, recently came to the same conclusion that the reconstruction of the I-275 interchange and the Brent Spence Bridge corridor project are top road projects for our region to succeed.

We look forward to working with our federal and state leaders to find viable funding to bring these projects to reality."


The team evaluated five concepts and examined their ability to ease congestion and improve travel by diverting traffic from the Brent Spence Bridge and other river crossings. Of these five concepts, two were advanced for more in-depth study based on their potential to divert traffic from the Brent Spence Bridge as well as probable costs. The Cincinnati Eastern Bypass and a concept connecting I-71/75 at the southern split near Walton to the east side of I-275 in Ohio were further studied. The study led to the following conclusions:

1. A new bridge is needed in the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor (central city) to improve travel conditions on I-71 and I-75 between Ohio and Kentucky.

2. The existing Brent Spence Bridge is structurally sound and will remain in service to support safe and efficient travel across the Ohio River.

3. Estimated costs for the new bridge are $2.3 billion in current year dollars and $2.6 billion in future dollars, which assumes the new bridge would open to traffic in 2024.

4. The concept of an eastern bypass in Kentucky is recommended for further study based on the potential transportation and economic development benefits it could offer the region. It does not, however, postpone the need for a new bridge.

5. Additional improvements are needed at I-275 in Kentucky to provide acceptable levels of service for traffic that moves to and from the Brent Spence Corridor. This would include the widening of I-71/75 from Turfway Road north to the Brent Spence Bridge project (near Dixie Highway). These improvements would cost approximately $289 million in current year dollars and $399 million in future dollars.

“Conducting a study of this magnitude was a big undertaking,” said Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Greg Thomas. “I’d like to acknowledge the dedication of our KYTC team and outside lead consultants, Stantec and AECOM, who identified these key findings that will inform our next steps toward improving traffic and increasing capacity on both sides of the river. We appreciate the community input that contributed to the study.”

Thomas added that KYTC continues to work closely with the Ohio Department of Transportation to maintain the existing Brent Spence Bridge and to prepare for painting in 2019. Routine maintenance on the structure was completed in 2017.


Statements from the Cincinnati side:

“The results of the Bevin study are a critical next step in moving the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project to construction,” said Tom Williams, Co-Chair of the Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition and president, North American Properties. “We believe the region is armed with the data needed to advance the Project and we encourage officials in Ohio and Kentucky, as well as the federal government, to continue working together to develop a financing plan for this project of national significance. We stand ready to assist in that process.”

“The Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition and Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber applaud Governor Bevin and his Administration for the thoughtful and deliberative approach to finding a solution to relieve the congestion and safety issues through the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor,” said Jill P. Meyer, president and CEO of the Cincinnati Chamber. “We are encouraged by Governor Bevin’s work to advance this project and look forward to continuing a partnership that will have significant positive economic impact on our region.”

 

“The Bevin study reaffirms the Brent Spence Bridge corridor is an immediate need for the future of our region,” said Williams. “Through polling, we know that 72% of voters across the region strongly believe fixing existing roads and highways is the top priority.”


Proposed new configurations will help improve safety on the existing and new bridges 

The lane configuration currently proposed for the new double-deck bridge includes six lanes to carry I-75 northbound and southbound traffic (three lanes each direction); two lanes to carry I-71 southbound traffic and three lanes to carry local southbound traffic. The lane configuration currently proposed for the existing Brent Spence Bridge would include two lanes of I-71 northbound traffic and three lanes of local northbound traffic.

Currently, many Brent Spence Bridge drivers choose the interstate route they need to follow while on the bridge. Under the proposed new configurations, route decisions will be made before crossing the bridge, therefore reducing the need to change lanes on the bridge and improving safety.

Local traffic will follow direct routes to local destinations

The study found that regional through traffic on the Brent Spence Bridge is estimated to be 12-20 percent of the average daily traffic. If the Cincinnati Eastern Bypass were built, it is estimated that traffic volume on the Brent Spence Bridge would be reduced by no more than 10 percent and that most of the reduction would be regional through traffic with local traffic continuing to use the most direct route to local destinations. Without a new bridge, significant congestion would remain between Kyles Lane and downtown Cincinnati despite the construction and cost of a new 75-mile roadway.

The study also concluded that while it does not postpone the need for a new bridge, the Cincinnati Eastern Bypass project is worthy of further exploration because of potential transportation and economic development benefits. Project costs were estimated at $3.6 billion in current year dollars. Considering inflation over the more than 10 years it would take for the environmental, design, right-of-way and utility phases before construction could begin, cost in future dollars is estimated at $5.3 billion (which assumes the project would open to traffic in 2032).

“While the collection and analysis of the data involved was complex, our task was straightforward. KYTC directed us to complete an objective, data-driven analysis of the most effective way to ease congestion along I-71/75 and improve cross-river mobility in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region and that is precisely what we did,” said Richard Sutherland, Senior Principal at Stantec, and project manager for the study. “We entered this study with no preconceived notions regarding the data itself or any related conclusions,” continued Sutherland. “We used industry-standard procedures and models to reach the conclusions set forth in the study report.”

Additional improvements at I-275 would support the Brent Spence Corridor

In addition, the study examined congestion and safety issues at the I-275 interchange in Kentucky and recommended additional modifications to support improvements along the Brent Spence Corridor. Proposed improvements would include the widening of I-71/75 from Turfway Road north to the Brent Spence Bridge project (near Dixie Highway). Estimated costs are approximately $289 million in current year dollars and $399 million in future dollars. Travel demand models indicated that widening south of Turfway Road to the I-71/75 split will be needed between the years 2030 and 2040.

The Brent Spence Strategic Corridor Study can be found online at transportation.ky.gov/bsbstudy.      

For a map of the proposed bridge configuration, click here

-Staff report

Photo: The Brent Spence Bridge (RCN file)